The fifth amendment to the US Constitution is designed to protect people against self-incrimination when they’re arrested on suspicion of a crime. It helps to ensure the treatment of the accused as innocent until proven guilty. A specific clause in the amendment prevents double jeopardy, which is a situation of an accused person brought to trial twice for the same crime. The same amendment also ensures the right to due process of law, a speedy trial and the right to fair compensation paid to crime victims.
According to the fifth amendment, no one accused of a crime can be forced to testify against him- or herself in a court of law. This extends to the requirement that the accused can’t make statements that count as self-incrimination. This amendment is the origin of the right to remain silent when arrested, and it’s tied closely to the Miranda rights that need to be read to anyone upon arrest.
The idea of the right to remain silent comes from the 17th century English politician John Lilburne, who refused to sign a pledge to answer every question asked of him upon arrest for distributing Puritan literature. Even after public corporal punishment, he continued to campaign for the rights of the accused and for protective measures against their being imprisoned for crimes they didn’t commit.
Further development of the fifth amendment is credited to James Madison, the fourth president of the United States and one of the framers of the Constitution. He wrote that no one should ever be forced to be a witness against him- or herself in any type of criminal case. Several of the first US states didn’t include these protections in their individual constitutions, and Madison felt it was vital the rights of the accused be preserved on a federal level.
Since its inception, the fifth amendment has been changed and updated several times over the centuries. These amendments have included exceptions when public safety is immediately at risk and when a non-custodial parent is accused of kidnapping his or her child away from the custodial parent.
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