How the Fifth Amendment Protects Citizens

How the Fifth Amendment Protects Citizens

( – Under English law in the Americas, people were subject to some incredible injustices. These included Judicial Torture (being tortured into confession) and Oath Ex Officio (questioning or examination without representation or knowledge of accusation). The Founding Fathers attempted to put an end to these practices in America with the Fifth Amendment. This vital part of the Constitution protects citizens in many ways.

You Cannot Be Indicted for a Serious Crime Without a Grand Jury

An American citizen is entitled to a Grand Jury to determine whether or not a serious crime has been committed or if there is probable cause warranting a trial to prove guilt or innocence. No one can unjustly accuse someone else without evidence under the Fifth Amendment. This protection ensures that authorities can’t force a person into an unjust trial without evidence.

You Cannot Be Subject to Double Jeopardy

The legal system can’t charge an American citizen for the same crime multiple times. Once a court has rendered a verdict, or the accused is acquitted, the issue is considered final. This protection prevents powerful governments and people from repeatedly harassing someone into submission.

Of course, that doesn’t mean authorities can’t charge an individual with lesser or other crimes related to the same offense. It also doesn’t excuse the accused from civil action, which may result in financial penalties.

You Cannot Be Compelled to Testify Against Yourself

This component is one of the most recognizable portions of the Fifth Amendment. Hollywood versions of The Miranda Warning often include the lines, “You have the right to remain silent…,” or “I plead the Fifth,” and are often dramatized by some kind of chase or high-stakes testimony in court.

This scenario is rarely how the Fifth Amendment plays out in the real world, but the core idea is the same. US authorities can’t force an American citizen to give testimony that would, or could, incriminate or convict that citizen of a crime.

One might ask, “Do I have to answer questions at all?” Under pre-American rules, people often were obligated to answer. If they refused, they could face torture and coercion to confess. Under Fifth Amendment protections, a person can remain silent and refuse to answer questions without an attorney present.

You Cannot Be Denied the Right to Due Process

Due process is a set of guidelines that ensures fair treatment and protection for people during criminal proceedings. It protects the accused from unreasonable conviction under a reasonable doubt. The government must follow due process at all times. It cannot hand down the many harsh punishments within its power unless it has proof and equity. To simplify, it can’t use its power without justification under the law.

One purpose of amendments to The Constitution is to protect or preserve the people’s rights from encroachment by their government or powerful individuals. The Fifth Amendment is no different, especially regarding government entities and influential individuals in legal and judicial settings.

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