Criminal defendants have numerous rights and protections at various stages of the criminal justice process. One such protection is the Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination.
You can typically invoke your Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination during the criminal investigation and at your trial. In many cases, people invoke this right when questioned by the police shortly after an arrest. How and when you invoke your Fifth Amendment rights may depend on your circumstances. It is usually wise to invoke these rights when you are being interrogated and get a lawyer to help you as soon as possible. Whether you invoke this right at your trial should be discussed with your lawyer. You should also discuss with an attorney whether waiving your Fifth Amendment rights is right for your case.
If you are facing criminal charges, you must know your rights. Our Utah criminal defense lawyers can help you assert your rights for your own protection. For a free case review, call Overson Law, PLLC at (801) 758-2287.
How Does the Fifth Amendment Affect a Utah Criminal Case?
The Fifth Amendment provides important protections for criminal defendants. Broadly speaking, the Fifth Amendment protects defendants from self-incrimination. Self-incrimination is anything – like statements or testimony – from a defendant that makes them look guilty. More specifically, the government cannot compel a criminal defendant to provide self-incriminating information.
While this right is important and protects criminal defendants from an overreach of government power, it is not a safety net that gets them out of legal trouble. While a defendant is not required to answer incriminating questions, that does not mean law enforcement or prosecutors cannot ask leading or potentially incriminating questions. The Fifth Amendment only works when a defendant decides to invoke it.
Our Logan criminal defense attorneys can help you decide when and how to invoke your Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination. While many defendants choose to stay quiet, you can waive your rights and answer questions if that is best for your case.
When Does the Fifth Amendment Apply to a Criminal Case in Utah?
The Fifth Amendment is not an all-encompassing right against incrimination. It only applies to incrimination from yourself and only in certain circumstances. To effectively use the Fifth Amendment to your advantage, you should consult with our Utah criminal defense attorneys about your case. Typically, you can invoke this right after your arrest and at your trial.
Criminal charges are often the result of a criminal investigation conducted by law enforcement. The police like to question suspects after arresting them to gather more information for the prosecutor’s case. The police may ask you lots of questions during an interrogation, but you can invoke your Fifth Amendment right to remain silent.
The police are required to read you your Miranda rights, which were established in the famous case of Miranda v. Arizona. These rights include your right to remain silent and your right to have an attorney present. The police are required by law to read these rights to you and confirm that you understand them before any custodial interrogations.
You must be in police custody to invoke your Fifth Amendment rights at this stage. If the police want to question you, but you are not in custody, they do not have to inform you of your rights, and you are free to leave whenever you wish. Once you are in custody and police try to interrogate you, your Miranda warnings must be read to you.
Custody is not always obvious. The police have a lot of authority, and people might feel as though they are in custody when in fact they are free to leave. While being placed under arrest and in handcuffs is certainly considered “in custody,” there may be other factors to consider. If you were not arrested, did you feel free to leave? Did the police say you could not leave? Where did the questioning happen? Were you questioned alone? All these questions should be discussed with a lawyer.
Your Fifth Amendment rights also come into play at trial but work somewhat differently than during custodial interrogation. At trial, a criminal defendant cannot be compelled to testify. They can invoke their Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination and refuse to testify.
Some defendants have trouble deciding whether they should testify. While it is normal to want to speak on your own behalf and assert your innocence, it may be unwise. Once you decide to testify, all bets are off, and the prosecutor can cross-examine you, and you will be compelled to answer their questions.
Witnesses at criminal trials may also assert this right. When witnesses answer questions, they may be asked something that implicates them in a crime. They cannot be compelled to answer any questions that would incriminate them in a present or future criminal hearing. They can “plead the fifth” in such cases and refuse to answer the question. However, if their testimony is crucial, the court may grant them immunity from prosecution and compel them to answer.
When Can I Waive My Fifth Amendment Rights in a Utah Criminal Case?
Now that you know when you can invoke your Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination, you should also know when you can or should waive them. By waiving your rights, you agree to answer incriminating questions knowing the answers could be used against you. You should consult with our Murray criminal defense attorneys before making such a significant decision.
It is probably safe to say that in most cases, criminal defendants should invoke their Fifth Amendment rights at every opportunity. The police and prosecutors are not looking out for your best interests, and it is up to you and your attorney to use your rights to protect yourself. However, sometimes speaking up on your behalf can benefit your case.
For example, it might be wise to waive your Fifth Amendment rights during custodial interrogation with law enforcement if you have an alibi. Information like this should be conveyed quickly so you can be released sooner. If you are not a defendant but a witness, you can inquire about waiving your rights in exchange for immunity under the guidance of your own defense attorney.
Contact Our Utah Criminal Defense Attorneys for Help
Whether you are a defendant or a witness in a criminal trial, you should know about your Fifth Amendment rights and when to invoke them. Our Ogden criminal defense attorneys at Overson Law, PLLC can offer guidance and advice on the matter. Call (801) 758-2287 for a free case review.