You have the right to remain silent. This is one of the fundamental rights in the United States. In many cases, the police are going to inform you of this right when they arrest you, notifying you that anything you say can be used against you in a court of law.
But even after you arrive in court, you still have the right to remain silent by “pleading the Fifth.” This is a reference to the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which states that a person cannot be compelled to incriminate themselves. If the prosecution asks you if you committed a crime, you can plead the Fifth and choose to say nothing, rather than being obligated to admit that you did commit that crime.
Of course, there are those who say that this just implies that someone is guilty. Pleading the Fifth is different from saying that you didn’t do something. Are you more likely to be convicted if you choose to plead the Fifth?
The Supreme Court
Fortunately, this issue has been brought to the Supreme Court, which has determined that pleading the Fifth should not indicate guilt. The court should not presume that the person is guilty or hiding anything simply because they are not answering the question. That is a right they have, and they should be allowed to exercise that right without worrying that they are going to jeopardize their own case.
That doesn’t necessarily mean that pleading the Fifth won’t imply guilt in the court of public opinion. But it should not be used in an actual legal court to make any sort of decision; so defendants can use it without worry.
That being said, this legal process can be more complicated than people often assume, and the ramifications of a conviction are severe. This is why it’s so important to know about all of the legal steps you can take and the rights you have.