Pleading the Fifth: Your Right Not to Self-Incriminate

Pleading the Fifth: Your Right Not to Self-Incriminate

The Fifth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States reads in pertinent part: “No person… shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself[.]”

The right not to self incriminate afforded under the Fifth Amendment protects criminal defendants or suspects from having to testify or make statements that may incriminate themselves. This protection is extended during two situations: when being interrogated by law enforcement and when testifying in legal proceedings.

In the landmark decision Miranda v. Arizona, the United States Supreme Court  extended Fifth Amendment protections to situations outside of legal proceedings when one’s personal freedoms are being curtailed, such as when in custody or while being interrogated by police. 384 U.S. 436 (1966). While law enforcement must advise suspects of their right to remain silent, it is important to know that merely remaining silent is not the same thing as asserting your right to remain silent. Whether or not you believe your answers will incriminate you, if you are being interrogated by law enforcement we highly encourage you to assert your other Fifth Amendment right to counsel. You may believe you can explain away your conduct or talk yourself out of the situation, but it is likely you cannot. Talking to law enforcement without an attorney is almost always a bad idea.

Another important aspect of your right not to self-incriminate is in regard to timing. In a single proceeding if you voluntarily testify about a subject, then you are waiving your right to remain silent. Once you open the door, so to speak, during a proceeding you cannot then invoke your right against self-incrimination when questioned about the details. However, you may invoke your right against self-incrimination at a later time during a different proceeding.

Our Fifth Amendment rights are some of our most basic protections under the Constitution. If law enforcement officers are found to have violated your Fifth Amendment rights, then the court may suppress your statements and they cannot be used against you at trial. It is not uncommon for law enforcement to violate the Fifth Amendment rights, or other constitutional rights, of suspects they are pursuing. In such cases, the violations may help a defendant mount an even stronger defense against criminal charges.

If you have been charged with a crime in Arizona or in federal court in Arizona, Oklahoma, Utah, California, or anywhere in the United States, we can help you mount the strongest possible defense. We will review the specifics of your case and scrutinize the prosecution’s case against you.

Ashley D. Adams is a former fraud prosecutor with the U.S. Attorney’s Office. She has insider experiences to use in your defense. Contact Ashley D. Adams, PLC today (480) 219-1366 to schedule a case evaluation.


The attorneys at Ashley D. Adams, PLC handle state criminal cases throughout Arizona including the cities of Phoenix, Scottsdale, Glendale, Mesa, Tempe, Ahwatukee, Maricopa, Gilbert, Peoria, Surprise, Goodyear, Litchfield Park, Avondale, Chandler, Casa Grande, Florence, Queen Creek, Deer Valley, North Pinal and Sun City as well as those living in and around Maricopa County, Pinal County, Pima County, Yuma County and Yavapai County.

The attorneys at Ashley D. Adams, PLC handle federal criminal cases throughout the United States, including Arizona, Oklahoma, Utah, and California.