A Guide to the Fifth Amendment
The Fifth Amendment, or Amendment V of the United States Constitution is the section of the Bill of Rights that protects you from being held for committing a crime unless you have been indicted correctly by the police. The Fifth Amendment is also where the guarantee of due process comes from, meaning that the state and the country have to respect your legal rights. The Fifth Amendment was introduced as a part of the Bill of Rights into the United States Constitution on September 5, 1789 and was voted for by ¾ of the states on December 15, 1791.
History of the Fifth Amendment
Once the United States won their independence from the British Parliament and monarchy that had acted like tyrants, the Framers of the United States Constitution did not trust large, centralized governments. Because of this, the Framers wrote the Bill of Rights, which were the first 10 amendments, to help protect individual freedoms from being hurt by the governmental. They included the Fifth Amendment, which gave five specific freedoms to American citizens.
Understanding the Fifth Amendment Line by Line
If you are confused by what each line means, here are some explanations to make the Fifth Amendment easier to understand:
“No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury”: No one can be put on trial for a serious crime, unless a grand jury decide first that there is enough proof or evidence so that the trial is needed. If there is enough evidence, an indictment is then issued, which means that the person who is charged with the crime will can put on trial for the crime.
“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”: People in the military can go to trial without a grand jury first deciding that it is necessary. This is the case if the military person commits a crime during a national emergency or a war.
“Nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb”: If someone is put on trial for a certain crime and the trial ends, the person cannot be tried once more for the same crime. If a person is convicted of a crime and then serves his or her time in jail, or if the person is acquitted, he or she cannot be put on trial a second time.
“Nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself”: The government does not have the power to make someone testify against himself. That is why a trial uses evidence and witnesses instead of the testimony of the accused person.
“Nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law”: The government cannot take away a person’s life, property, or freedom without following certain steps that give the person a fair chance. This is what is known as due process. Due Process helps protect a person’s rights.
“Nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation”: The government cannot take away a person’s property for public use without somehow paying them back for it.
Facts About the Fifth Amendment
• The Fifth Amendment was introduced into the Constitution by James Madison.
• The ideas in the Fifth Amendment can be traced back to the Magna Carta, which was issued in 1215.
• A defendant cannot be punished for using his right to silence during a criminal trial, but there are some consequences to using it in a civil trial.