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Explained: The Fifth Amendment

Posted by Justin on

The Fifth Amendment is one of the most important for United States citizens because it outlines Constitutional limits on police procedures.

Additionally, it helps to outline various Constitutional rights for American citizens, particularly when it comes to criminal charges and related circumstances.

Want to know more? Let’s take a deeper dive into the Fifth Amendment and explore what makes it so critical, especially in modern times:

Five Rights

The Fifth Amendment specifically outlines five major rights, each of which is listed below:

  • The right to indictment by a grand jury when you are criminally charged for felonies. 
  • The right against being charged for the same crime twice (double jeopardy). 
  • The right against self-incrimination – you can’t incriminate yourself for a crime through testimony. 
  • The right to a fair trial.
  • The right against the government seizing your private property without compensating (paying) you at the fair market value for that property.

As you can see, the Fifth Amendment establishes many of the major criminal justice cornerstones we have come to expect as American citizens. Without the Fifth Amendment, police could technically charge you for the same crime multiple times in a row and would not have to give you a trial in front of your peers.

Even though this is a good basic overview of the Fifth Amendment, there is still some language that’s a little tricky to understand given our modern interpretations. Here’s some more information:

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What are Grand Juries?

In short, a “grand jury” is the holdover term that stems from British common law. Remember, America used to be a British colony.

All this means for modern American citizens is that you must be tried before a grand jury for felony cases. Felonies are more serious charges than misdemeanors. Furthermore, anyone tried before a grand jury can challenge the membership of the jury to prevent them from being tried by biased individuals

What’s Double Jeopardy?

This clause in the Fifth Amendment is explicitly intended to prevent individuals from being harassed through successive prosecutions of the same alleged act.

This effectively stops the police from repeatedly charging someone with the same crime over and over in an attempt to get them to admit to the crime through verbal (or physical) battery. It’s an important part of the Fifth Amendment that ensures our police forces remain honest.

What About Self-Incrimination?

Thanks to the Fifth Amendment, criminal defendants are allowed to avoid testimony to avoid incriminating themselves. This is where the phrase "plead the Fifth" comes from, in fact.

The Fifth Amendment played a key role in the Supreme Court case Miranda v. Arizona, during which it was ruled that police officers have to make any suspects aware of their rights, including the right against self-incrimination. These are called “Miranda” rights.

Wrap Up

Now you fully know just why the Fifth Amendment is so important and why it has played a major role in police procedures.

Thanks to the Fifth Amendment, Americans can always count on justice and fair treatment, even when they are charged with serious crimes.

Thank you for reading, stay strong patriots.

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