When someone is suspected, questioned or arrested under the suspicion of committing a criminal offense, they have numerous fundamental rights at their disposal. Most people aren’t accustomed to being under suspicion, so these rights may not be prominent in their minds.
One of the most important foundational rights is the right to protect yourself from self-incrimination, and this is outlined in the Fifth Amendment of the U.S constitution. Protections against self-incrimination also tie in with your right to remain silent as well as your guarantee of “due process of law”.
So, in practical terms, how does the Fifth Amendment protect you?
A chance to remain composed
Whether it is you, law enforcement or a nearby witness, everyone is susceptible to making mistakes, especially in the heat of the moment. Under the stress of being questioned, you might make a simple mistake when answering a query from law enforcement. While your mistake might be completely innocent, it could make you look dishonest later at a court hearing.
If you are accused of an offense, you need to have people on your side who know the ins and outs of the criminal law. By exercising your rights under the Fifth Amendment, you can allow this to happen. Remember, you have the presumption of innocence, and the onus is on the prosecution to establish your guilt, not for you to establish that you are innocent.
Staying calm when under suspicion can be challenging, but it is in your best interests and will likely benefit your case in the long run. As you defend the charges lodged against you, be sure to have a firm understanding of your legal rights.