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  • Writer's pictureMichael Sauls

The Right to Remain Silent

The fifth amendment has a lot of important elements that pertain to the legal system. Some of the more famous parts are the double jeopardy clause and the part forbidding forcing someone to testify against themselves. The full amendment reads thusly and describes constitutional limits on police procedures.

"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 offence 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."

So let's examine each part of the amendment and discuss what it means. The first sentence means that everyone is entitled to a trial by grand jury for a felony level crime. There is an exception for people in the military granting the military latitude to dispense justice over service members separate from the civilian courts.

The second part is the double jeopardy clause. This has to do with people who have been acquitted in a trial. Once the courts have ruled a person innocent then they cannot be charged and tried again for the same crime.

The right against being forced to incriminate yourself is the reason that people say, "I plead the fifth" when being questioned by police. It is also the reason police will read you your rights and tell you that you have the right to remain silent. It is a very smart thing to do when being questioned even if you aren't guilty of doing anything. When they say anything that you say can and will be used against you in court they mean that. So keep your mouth shut.

Next all citizens are guaranteed a fair trial. Nor can the government take away your private property for public use without giving you fair compensation.

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