What freedoms does the Fifth Amendment protect?
The Fifth Amendment 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 or limb; 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; nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation."
The Fifth Amendment—the longest in the Bill of Rights—provides the following protections:
1. Right to a grand jury
2. Protection against double jeopardy
3. Protection against self-incrimination
4. Due process
5. Just compensation
What is double jeopardy?
The Fifth Amendment provides that "nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb." Double jeopardy means that a person is placed in jeopardy of punishment for a crime twice. It prohibits a second prosecution after a person has been acquitted or convicted. It also prohibits multiple punishments for the same offense. The U.S. Supreme Court has declared that the double jeopardy clause is designed "to protect an individual from being subjected to the hazards of trial and possible conviction more than once for an alleged offense."
What is an example of the double jeopardy clause prohibiting multiple punishments for the same offense?
The U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Brown v. Ohio (1978) provides an excellent illustration of the Double Jeopardy Clause in action. County prosecutors initially charged Nathaniel Brown with joyriding. He pled guilty and served 30 days in jail. Upon his release, prosecutors charged him with the more serious crime of auto theft. Brown's lawyer contended that this subsequent charged violated his client's right to be free from double jeopardy.
The Supreme Court applied the Blockburger test—derived from Blockburger v. United States (1932): "The applicable rule is that where the same act or transaction constitutes a violation of two distinct statutory provisions, the test to be applied to determine whether there are two offenses or only one, is whether each provision requires proof of an additional fact which the other does not." Applying this test, the Court determined that joyriding and auto theft constituted the same offense.
LegalSpeak: Mapp v. Ohio (1961)
Justice Tom C. Clark: (majority): "The criminal goes free, if he must, but it is the law that sets him free. Nothing can destroy a government more quickly than its failure to observe its own laws, or worse, its disregard of the charter of its own existence.... [T]he ignoble shortcut to conviction left open to the State tends to destroy the entire system of constitutional restraints on which the liberties of the people rest. Having once recognized that the right to privacy embodied in the Fourth Amendment is enforceable against the States, and that the right to be secure against rude invasions of privacy by state officers is, therefore, constitutional in origin, we can no longer permit that right to remain an empty vessel."
When giving testimony, you are protected by the Fifth Amendment from self-incrimination, which means you cannot be forced to say anything that could make you look guilty (iStock).
What is the protection against self-incrimination?
This Fifth Amendment-based freedom means that the government cannot force an individual to the prosecution against him or her. In other words, it means that the government cannot force persons to incriminate themselves. A person can say "I take the Fifth," and the government cannot compel him or her to speak. We often think of the Fifth Amendment when someone takes the stand and a prosecutor asks them a question to which he or she responds: "I take the Fifth." But, the Fifth Amendment also applies when a person is subject to police interrogation and questioning.