When and Where Can I “Plead the Fifth?”

If you have ever testified in court, you know that the atmosphere can be intense. Every little word that is uttered in the courtroom may be transcribed, and every little word may alter the outcome of the case. Not just the outcome of a case is at stake, however. What about the witnesses who testify? What if they are not the accused or charged individual, but they still have been compelled to testify on a matter and are afraid that they will be asked to reveal something that will make it seem as if they are at fault?

The privilege against self incrimination applies to witnesses testifying in court. Don’t confuse it with an individual’s “Miranda” rights (which only apply when a person is in custody and being interrogated.) Check back with us soon for an article discussing those rights, because you should understand the concept of Miranda too.  It is important for you to understand the subtleties of the law – you can do this if you contact your Virginia Beach Criminal Lawyer to fully understand the law as it pertains to your case.

If you believe your constitutional rights have been infringed, you may want to consider calling your Virginia Beach Criminal Lawyer. Many charges have been dropped because of faulty police work.

First, it is worth noting that you can’t make a confession or statement and then try to “take it back.” To assert the privilege, you’ve got to do so BEFORE a response is made. (See Roberts v. U.S., 445 U.S. 552, 100 S. Ct. 1358 (1980). What if you are compelled to testify…meaning you’ve got no choice.  If that is the situation, you still can’t make a statement (testimony) and take it back. The government will be deemed “not to have compelled” the testimony for Fifth Amendment purposes. (See Minnesota v. Murphy, 465 U.S. 420, 104 S. Ct. 1136 (1984).  If this sounds complicated, perhaps you are one of the rare people who understand that the criminal justice system is extraordinarily complex. The complexity and high stakes should lead a reasonable person to seek an experienced Virginia Beach Criminal Lawyer if charged with a crime.

What should you remember? Remember that the right against self incrimination applies to situations in the courtroom. Also remember that in all criminal cases, the defendant does not have to take the stand. The privilege automatically is in effect until he or she decides to testify. (See Sims v. Slayton, 333 F. Supp. 246 (W.D. V.A. 1971).