The Fifth Amendment

There are a few Amendments included in the United States’ Bill of Rights that relate to Criminal Law. Here is important information to know about the Fifth Amendment.

Amendment V

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

  • The Fifth Amendment grants a number of constitutional rights in both criminal and civil matters. In regards to criminal cases, this amendment protects against self-incrimination and double jeopardy. It guarantees the right to a grand jury, and provides that due process of the law be present in all legal proceedings. The Fifth Amendment essentially outlines a person’s basic constitutional rights and puts limitations on the conduct of law enforcement.
  • Self-Incrimination
    • This clause allows any witness to refrain from testifying if their testimony may result in them incriminating themselves. The Self-Incrimination clause essentially protects criminal defendants from having to testify if their statement may be self incriminating, in any way (i.e. Casey Anthony.) This clause is also the focal point of the Miranda Warnings (established by the Supreme Court case of Miranda v. Arizona) which requires that law enforcement ensure all suspects in custody are aware of their right to remain silent or have an attorney present during any questioning. If law enforcement fails to do so, courts must suppress all statements made in violation of the Fifth Amendment.
  • Grand Jury
    • A Grand Jury consists of anywhere from 12-23 jurors (in common law) and 16 to 23 jurors (federal grand jury). These members are then responsible for indicting a person—this means that they have to assess whether or not a crime has actually been committed and if the suspect at hand can be linked to the matter. In the cause of United States v. Williams (1992), the grand jury was described as being “a kind of buffer or referee between the government and the people.”
  • Due Process
    • This clause states that the government is required to respect all of the protections provided by the United States Constitution, in matters of both procedural and substantive due process. It is intended to ensure that all judicial proceedings are conducted in an orderly manner and that all people receive equal protection under the law.
  • Double Jeopardy
    • This clause prevents the court from successive prosecutions of the same crime. It is intended to reduce the possibility of harassment by the court and it upholds the importance of an acquittal. This clause protects the defendant by ensuring that they will not face a second prosecution after an acquittal or a conviction, and it also guarantees that they will not receive multiple punishments for the same offense. The term jeopardy refers to the “danger of conviction,” which is why appeals are not the same as double jeopardy.