can I plead the 5th without an attorney

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can I plead the 5th without an attorney

Asked on June 24, 2009 under Criminal Law, North Carolina

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

To "plead the fifth" refers to invoking your conditional right against self-incrimination.  You can always invoke a constitutional right without having an attorney.  However, an attorney can counsel you as to when it is appropriate to do so.

The key words in the amendment are: "nor shall be compelled, in any criminal case, to be a witness against himself."  This basically means you don't have to incriminate yourself, and you can't be forced to testify at your own criminal trial.  When you "plead the fifth," the prosecuting attorney is not allowed to suggest to the jury that your lack of testimony implies your guilt. However, members of the jury may come to that conclusion on their own.  In addition, if you are testifying in someone else's trial and feel that you might incriminate yourself in the process, you can avoid answering questions by "pleading the fifth."

Again, you may want to consult with an attorney on this.  They will more fully explain when it is legally appropriate to invoke this right as well as when it is strategically advantageous to do so.


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