Self-Incrimination Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Self-Incrimination, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Self-Incrimination?

(n) Self incrimination is issuing statements, confessions, evidences which proves his involvement in a criminal or fraudulent activity intentionally, which may work against him. The constitution prohibits compulsion or use of force to witness against himself.

History and Meaning of Self-Incrimination

Self-incrimination is a legal principle that is protected by the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution. It refers to the act of an individual exposing themselves to criminal charges or penalties by knowingly making statements that implicate themselves in criminal activity. It is closely related to the right to remain silent, which is also protected by the Fifth Amendment.

The origins of self-incrimination can be traced back to English common law, where individuals were often coerced into making statements that would harm their own defense. In response, the right against self-incrimination emerged as a fundamental right to protect against self-discrimination. Today, self-incrimination is a highly debated legal principle that balances the desire to hold criminals accountable with the need to protect an individual's right to a fair trial.

Examples of Self-Incrimination

  • A suspect in a criminal investigation is questioned by law enforcement and provides a statement that includes admitting to committing the crime in question.
  • A witness is called to the stand in a court trial and is asked to provide testimony that may incriminate themselves in the crime being discussed.
  • A defendant in a court trial chooses to remain silent instead of providing testimony that may incriminate themselves, which is protected under the right to remain silent.

Legal Terms Similar to Self-Incrimination

  • Due Process: a legal principle that states that the government must follow fair procedures and respect an individual's legal rights.
  • Miranda Rights: a set of rights that law enforcement is required to inform people of when they are being arrested, including the right to remain silent and the right against self-incrimination.
  • Double Jeopardy: the principle that an individual cannot be tried for the same crime twice, which is also protected under the Fifth Amendment.