Avoiding Self Incrimination: What Your Rights Really Are
May 3, 2019
One of the criminal rights that every person should know and invoke is the right to not incriminate themselves. The United States Constitution's Fifth Amendment includes a clause that notes that no person can be forced to become a witness against themselves in court. Even though that sounds straightforward, there are some points that you should know about this fundamental right.
Defendants in criminal cases can't be tortured or coerced in any manner to try to get them to make statements that show they are guilty of a crime. This is traced back to England when Puritans refused to provide information to interrogators. When some of the individuals came to the United States from England, they brought the concept to this country.
When you are facing the court as a defendant, you are the one who has to decide if you will testify. Your own defense attorney can't even force you to testify. You should fully consider what it means if you do get up on the stand (and what it means if you don't).
One thing that you have to remember is that the Fifth Amendment doesn't give you the right to answer some questions and avoid others if you testify at your own trial. In other words, there's no middle ground; you have to either choose to answer all the questions presented to you at trial or stay off the witness stand.
You should also know that no jury can take your refusal to answer questions during a police interrogation or to testify at your own trial as an admission of guilt or consider it when they are deciding your case.
It is important to consider all of your rights and options when you are planning your defense with your attorney.