Welcome back to our blog here where we break down legal news, give thoughts on laws and disseminate available information to the wider public. Today, we're going to talk about why the 5th amendment is so important in criminal defense in new york.
What is the 5th Amendment?
The 5th Amendment covers an array of things. Let's quote the Bill of Rights and break it down.
“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, what does this mean that the 5th Amendment covers?
The 5th amendment offers protection against self-incrimination and confessions, double jeopardy, the power to compel testimony and disclosure, and eminent domain. It also provides for due process, the right to a grand jury, and the operation of the exclusionary rule.
The protection against Self-Incrimination is one of the most important rights offered by the 5th amendment. You have the legal right to refuse to answer a question or speak to people involved in a criminal investigation if the information could be incriminating. It's popularly referred to as “pleading the fifth” or “taking the fifth”. As this right is protected in the Bill of Rights, it applies to both state and federal courts, as well as both criminal and civil cases.
Double Jeopardy protection is another protection given to us by the 5th Amendment. That means that you cannot be charged or convicted for the same crime twice. That does not mean that you can't be charged for two different instances of the same crime, however (example, Person A robs Person B and Person C. The robberies against Persons B and C are different crimes).
Under the Fifth Amendment, someone cannot be prosecuted for the same crime they've been acquitted of. Double Jeopardy only applies in criminal cases and does not cover civil lawsuits.
The final right we'll cover today that's afforded to us by the Fifth Amendment is the right to a grand jury if the accused is facing federal and state felony charges. Grand Juries are used to determine if a person should be indicted for a crime based on what evidence is gathered by the prosecution. Grand Juries prevent prosecutors from having the power to charge people and put them through the costs and rigors of trial when they have little to no evidence. The prosecution needs probable cause in order to proceed with a case.
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