Should You Plead The Fifth Amendment?
In casual conversation, people sometimes say, “I plead the Fifth” to get out of answering awkward questions. In a legal context, however, pleading the Fifth Amendment is serious business. The Fifth Amendment grants everyone the right not to be pressured into making self-incriminating statements during a court case or investigation, such as telling a police officer, prosecutor, or judge that you committed a crime. Without it, it would be much easier for police and the court system to coerce defendants into confessing to crimes, by using intimidation, threats, or worse. The phrase “the right to remain silent” in the Miranda warnings refers to the Fifth Amendment, but there is more to the Fifth Amendment than simply refusing to speak to police. There are situations where you are legally required to respond to questions and requests from law enforcement or the court, but “I plead the Fifth” is a valid answer. If you are in a situation where you might need to plead the Fifth Amendment, you definitely need a Tampa criminal defense lawyer.
When Can You Plead the Fifth Amendment in a Criminal Case?
You can plead the Fifth Amendment whenever you are being questioned in an official context about a criminal or civil case, if answering truthfully would provide evidence that you are guilty of a crime. This is true whether you are a defendant or a witness.
Imagine that John is part of a drug trafficking operation, and police are investigating the operation. They are questioning John to find out more about other participants in the operation. During the deposition, John is asked whether he ever bought drugs online. He did, but if he admits this, he can be charged with drug trafficking. If he lies, he can be charged with perjury. If he deletes the files from his computer when he finds out about the investigation or smashes the hard drive with a hammer, he can be charged with tampering with evidence. The best choice is to plead the Fifth Amendment. In a case like this, John should have a lawyer represent him; his lawyer can advise him on which questions he can safely answer and when he should plead the Fifth.
If you plead the Fifth Amendment, this alone is not sufficient evidence to charge you with a crime. In fact, it might even help you avoid being charged. If investigators are sure that you know important information about a crime, they might even be willing to give you immunity, where, in exchange for your testimony, they agree not to charge you. Immunity is like the world’s greatest plea deal, in that it does not involve a guilty plea or criminal penalties; it just requires you to reveal incriminating information about your co-conspirators.
Contact Tampa Criminal Defense Attorney Bryant Scriven
A criminal defense lawyer can help you deal with all aspects of criminal procedure, from investigations and grand juries to entering a plea, going to trial, or getting charges dropped. Contact Scriven Law in Tampa, Florida to schedule a consultation.