Taking The Fifth Definition and Legal Meaning

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

What is Taking The Fifth?

To refuse or act of refusing under the oath, in the court of law, to give any oral evidence when an attorney cross examines, which one might think may lead to accusing onself. In the court of United States a person is at liberty to not answer certain questions which may lead him to be a witness against himself.It is the term which is also known as “pleading the fifth” under American Criminal Law.He has right to remain silent, but it does not apply when it comes to leading other persons to be named accused.

History and Meaning of Taking The Fifth

Taking the Fifth, or Pleading the Fifth, is a term used in American criminal law that indicates the act of invoking one's right to remain silent and refusing to answer questions that could incriminate oneself. This right is based on the Fifth Amendment of the US Constitution, which protects individuals from self-incrimination and preserves their right to due process of law. The term "Taking the Fifth" was first used in a Congressional hearing in 1879 during an investigation of the Whiskey Ring, a tax-evasion scandal involving several high-ranking government officials.

Examples of Taking The Fifth

  1. During a trial, a witness is asked about their involvement in a criminal activity. They refuse to answer, citing their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
  2. A suspect is brought into the police station for questioning. They choose to remain silent and not answer any questions, even if it could help clear their name.
  3. In a custody battle, a parent is asked about their substance abuse history. They decide to take the Fifth and not answer the question, rather than risk admitting to past drug use.

Legal Terms Similar to Taking The Fifth

  1. Right to remain silent - this is the broader term that encompasses the Fifth Amendment right to not self-incriminate.
  2. Self-incrimination - the act of implicating oneself in a crime.
  3. Miranda Rights - the set of rights read to an individual when they are arrested and taken into police custody, which includes the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney.