In school, most children study the United States Constitution. While many grown-ups might not remember all the facts they learned, the rights afforded to adults by this document are vastly important. People who have any involvement with the criminal justice system should make sure that they are familiar with their rights.
The Fifth Amendment provides some very important rights to those facing criminal charges. Here are some important things to know about these protections.
The right to remain silent
You don't have to speak to police officers when they are questioning you, although you do have to provide basic information such as your name and date of birth. Give them your identification if they request it, but you don't have to answer any other questions. This is good to know if you are pulled over for something like suspicion of drunk driving, because the officer will almost certainly ask you how many alcoholic beverages you've had to drink.
Before you answer questions or make any statements, remember that anything you do or say can be recorded — even if only in the police report — and be used against you in the criminal case. You shouldn't say anything that the prosecutors might find useful when they are preparing a case against you.
In certain circumstances, such as when you are being arrested or placed in custody, police must read you your Miranda rights. The officer must provide these in a language you understand. One right you have is that right to remain silent, and you're reminded that anything you do choose to say can be used against you.
Don't incriminate yourself
You don't have to incriminate yourself. The Fifth Amendment offers a specific protection against self-incrimination. This means that you don't have to say anything that could lead you to being found guilty of a crime. Additionally, you don't have to speak up about anything that would implicate in a crime other than the one for which you were originally detained.
Know how to invoke these rights
If you are invoking your Fifth Amendment rights, you need to be sure that you invoke them clearly; you don't want to leave any doubt about your intentions. If you tell the police that you are going to remain silent, you shouldn't say anything else to them.
If you invoke the Fifth Amendment during a hearing or proceeding, you must not say anything else during that hearing or proceeding. You can't refuse to answer some questions based on this amendment and elect to answer others.
Remember your constitutional rights if you ever face arrest on any state or federal charges.