Should you ever face criminal charges in Ohio, the Fifth Amendment grants you the right to avoid self-incrimination. However, this may not mean much to you if you do not know what self-incrimination is, nor understand the rights that the Fifth Amendment extends to you.
According to Cornell Law School, self-incrimination involves saying something that would either expose you to criminal prosecution or implicate you in a crime. Because the Fifth Amendment protects you from self-incrimination, people often refer to the act of asserting these rights as “pleading the Fifth.” However, you also have the right to waive your Fifth Amendment rights if you so choose.
Fifth Amendment rights apply following an arrest and at a trial. The right to remain silent following your arrest is an example of Fifth Amendment protection from self-incrimination. The Fifth Amendment also gives you the right not to testify at your own trial. Once you agree to give testimony at a criminal trial, however, you waive this right and cannot change your mind during your testimony and choose to stop answering questions. Nevertheless, if you refuse to give testimony by invoking your Fifth Amendment rights, the jury cannot interpret your silence as an admission of guilt, nor can the judge or prosecution instruct them otherwise.
If you are a witness in a criminal trial, you also have the right to avoid self-incrimination by asserting your Fifth Amendment rights. As a witness, you can do so selectively, choosing to respond to some questions but not to others. However, a judge may be able to compel you to give testimony, e.g., by using a subpoena.
The information in this article is not intended as legal advice but provided for educational purposes only.