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Fifth Amendment Essay

The Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution provides, “No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law. The Fifth Amendment also refers to the practice of invoking the right to remain silent rather than incriminating oneself. It protects guilty as well as innocent persons who find themselves in incriminating circumstances. This right has important implications for police interrogations, a method that police use to obtain evidence in the form of confessions from suspects. The clauses incorporated within the Fifth Amendment outline basic constitutional limits on police procedure.

The Fifth Amendment is important mainly because it protects us from having our rights abused by the government. It protects us from having the government take our freedom or our property without convicting us of a crime. It also makes it harder for the government to actually convict us of crimes. By doing these things, it helps to protect us from a tyrannical government. The framers of the Fifth Amendment intended that its provisions would apply only to the actions of the federal government. However, after the Fourteenth Amendment was ratified, most of the Fifth Amendment’s protections were made applicable to the states. Under the incorporation doctrine, most of the liberties set forth in the Bill of Rights were made applicable to the state governments through The U.S. Supreme Court’s interpretation of the Due Process and equal protection clauses of the fourteenth Amendment.

As a result, all states must provide protection against double jeopardy, self-incrimination, deprivation of due process, and government taking of private property without just compensations. The grand jury clause of the Fifth Amendment has not been made applicable to states governments. In 1966, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a groundbreaking ruling in the case of Miranda v. State of Arizona. That ruling found that the Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights of Ernesto Arturo Miranda had been violated after he was arrested and tried for rape and kidnapping. The Fifth Amendment protects an arrested person from being compelled to be “a witness against himself,” or self-incrimination. Miranda signed a confession after hours of interrogation by the Phoenix Police Department. At no point was he informed of his right to remain silent or his right to an attorney.

In Texas, the Court upheld the conviction of Genovevo Salinas, who was found guilty of homicide after prosecutors argued that Salinas’ silence during a police interview prior to his arrest was a very important piece of evidence and that only a guilty person would have remained silent when questioned about his connection to a crime. Justice Samuel Alito wrote in the majority opinion that Salinas “was required to assert the privilege in order to benefit from it,” even though a person questioned while under arrest could not have his silence used against him. The Rutherford Institute filed an amicus curiae brief in the case, arguing that a person’s refusal to answer police questions, even before arrest and before Miranda warnings are given, does not indicate guilt in light of the well-known “right to remain silent,” and exclusion of evidence of silence is in keeping with the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee that no person shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.


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