The Fifth Amendment

This part of the Fifth Amendment puzzles me:

…The Fifth Amendment also guarantees the individual the right to refrain from self-incrimination by “pleading the fifth” to any questions or inquiries that may give way to an additional punishment or the notion of a guilty plea.

Why did our forefathers decree that a person doesn’t have to tell the truth, under oath, even if it may bring additional punishment or a guilty plea?   It’s basically saying no one has to tell the truth, right?  Or am I reading it wrong.  What’s the history?   If you’re guilty, you’re guilty, aren’t you?

I’m not arguing with the Constitution…just curious…

What are your thoughts?


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17 Responses to The Fifth Amendment

  1. Mustang says:

    There was a time in Los Angeles when police officers would take rubber hoses and beat confessions out of people. This sort of police abuse led to the Miranda case, prohibiting coercion of defendants into making admissions of guilt —unless, or until they had been first informed of their Constitutional rights. Ergo, the Fifth Amendment does not allow people to lie; it prohibits the government from forcing an accused person to give testimony, which might incriminate them at a public trial. Having been informed of these protections, an accused may waive his or her right to remain silent, or to have a lawyer present during questioning. In this case, anything that person says to the police can and will be used against them at trial.


  2. -FJ says:

    The Founder believed in “negative liberty” and certain “inalienable rights”. The citizen is SOVEREIGN, not the State.


  3. jerrydablade says:

    What Mustang and FJ said. The burden of proof thingy. Now about those rubber hoses… seems like they could go to good use with those G20 protesters.


  4. There is also an interesting concept related to this.
    Our Christian culture believes a man and woman, when married, become one person.
    Therefore, a wife could not be compelled to testify against her husband, as that would be self-incrimination.
    The rationale for this has now been secularized for “marital harmony”.


  5. bocopro says:

    Well, as I read it, the 5th was designed to preserve the credibility of testimony during trials or investigations by eliminating confessions obtained under duress. It is NOT absolute, however, and may be waived judicially under various circumstances too complex and convoluted to ‘splain without a lotta verbiage.

    The seminal phrase relating to self-incrimination says that “no person shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.” I take that to mean that he has the right to shut the hell up if he thinks that running his mouth will get him into deep kimchee.

    That doesn’t exactly give him the right to lie, and it’s not selective in that he can remain silent on one question but not others during a criminal trial. It REALLY gets murky where civil trials are concerned.

    What’s always bothered me is that business of swearing to tell “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” That’s often not possible in criminal trials because of the nature of the questions asked by defense and prosecuting attorneys. IOW, if they don’t ask the right question, you can’t give the “whole” truth, and they’re very good at parsing words to elicit only that PART of the truth they’re interested in.

    I’ve also often wondered about the “swearing” part; that is, how does it apply to infidels, atheists, ne-er-do-wells, and arrant knaves? Oaths don’t mean much to some people, and the Bible means absolutely nothing to roughly three out of four of the world’s people.

    Also, that business about trying something in the court of public opinion. Isn’t that exactly what happens in a jury trial where the matter is finally adjudicated by the opinions of a 12 ordinary citizens?

    I’m gonna go run the chlorophyll stalk slicer over the weeds in my front yard, then come back inside and put large masses of completely unnecessary sustenance into my belly. Sledding through the mysterious forest of public statutes is far too wearisome for my simple constitution.


  6. Can’t add anything to what Mustang opened with.


  7. geeez2014 says:

    All good information…but my conclusion has to be that it also helps a liar escape punishment.
    it seems to me a big part of this is punishment more to those who unfairly beat untrue confessions out of people.(thereby losing the confession of a guilty person because of how it was got out of them) It still does allow a guilty person to evade telling the truth that could incriminate him.


  8. Without 5th Amendment protections, wouldn’t a guilty party be prone to simply lying anyway?


  9. geeez2014 says:

    CI, I suppose so. But this is legal permission to lie, isn’t it? “Just in case you’re really guilty, you don’t have to tell us what you did”

    Well, it sure showed that Los Angeles club-beating cop, huh?


  10. -FJ says:

    All good information…but my conclusion has to be that it also helps a liar escape punishment.

    Even G_d can’t punish all the liars while they’re here on Earth, Z. He’s got to wait till they get to Heaven.


  11. bunkerville says:

    Just take a look at the poor kid from the USA who was murdered by the North Koreans. He confessed… sure he did.. We are blessed to have what we have and take the good with it. tolerate the bad…


  12. Kid says:

    Can’t add to anyof this other than lately I wish the 5th didn’t apply to public servents.


  13. I wouldn’t want any public servant denied their Constitutional protections……but I would like to see them prohibited from unionizing.


  14. Kid says:

    I’m down with that.


  15. There is no way that the fifth is a license to lie. To do so is perjury.
    It is a license to shut up.


  16. Mal says:

    I believe taking the fifth actually becomes an admission of guilt in the eyes of most jurors, if not legally. Most people realize its to avoid self incrimination even if they don’t actually say the words.


  17. Kid says:

    Well, if we can’t get the evidence on someone and prosecute without their admission it is pretty weak anywat right? Yes, taking the 5th is an admission of guilt or of the desire to protect someone else.


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