Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution facts for kids

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Created on December 15, 1791, the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution is the part of the United States Bill of Rights. This amendment establishes a number of legal rights that apply to both civil and criminal proceedings. It contains several clauses: It guarantees the right to a grand jury. It forbids double jeopardy (being tried again for the same crime after an acquittal). It protects a person against self-incrimination (being a witness against himself). This is often called "Pleading the Fifth". The Fifth Amendment requires due process in any case where a citizen may be deprived of "life, liberty, or property". Any time the government takes private property for public use, the owner must be compensated.

Text

The language of the Fifth Amendmend is:

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 offence 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.

Clauses

Grand Juries

The Fifth Amendment requires the use of grand juries by the federal legal system for all capital and "infamous crimes" (cases involving treason, certain felonies or gross moral turpitude). Grand juries trace their roots back to the Assize of Clarendon, an enactment by Henry II of England in 1166. It called for "the oath of *twelve men from every hundred and four men from every vill" to meet and decide who was guilty of robbery, theft or murder. It was the early ancestor of the jury system and of the grand jury. The United Kingdom abolished grand juries in 1933. Many of their former colonies including Canada, Australia and New Zealand have also stopped using them. The United States is one of the few remaining countries that uses the grand jury.

Double Jeopardy

The Double Jeopardy clause in the Fifth Amendment forbids a defendant from being tried again on the same (or similar) charges in the same case following a legitimate acquittal or conviction. In common law countries, a defendant may enter a peremptory plea of autrefois acquit or autrefois convict (autrefois means "in the past" in French). It means if the defendant has been acquitted or convicted of the same offence and cannot be retried under the principle of double jeopardy. The original intent of the clause is to prevent an individual to go through a number of prosecutions for the same act until the prosecutor gets a conviction.

Self-Incrimination

In a criminal prosecution, under the Fifth Amendment, a person has the right to refuse to incriminate himself (or herself). No person is required to give information that could be used against him. This is also called "taking the Fifth" or more commonly "pleading the Fifth." The intent of this clause is to prevent the government from making a person confess under oath. A person may not refuse to answer any relevant question under oath unless the answer would incriminate him. If the answer to a question on the witness stand could be used to convict that person of a crime, he can assert his Fifth Amendment rights.

The authors of the Fifth Amendment intended the provisions in it apply only to the federal government. Since 1925, under the incorporation doctrine, most provisions of the Bill of Rights now also apply to the state and local governments. Since the landmark decision Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966), when they arrest someone, police are required to include the "right to remain silent" as part of the legal Miranda warning (the wording may vary).

Due process

The due process clause guarantees every person a fair, just and orderly legal proceeding. The Fifth Amendment applies to the federal government. The Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, among other provisions, forbids states from denying anyone their life, their liberty or their property without due process of law So the Fourteenth Amendment expands the Due Process clause of the Fifth Amendment to apply to the states. Due process means the government must follow the law and not violate any parts of it. An example of violating due process is when a judge shows bias against the defendant in a trial. Another example is when the prosecution fails to disclose information to the defense that would show the defendant is not guilty of the crime.

Takings

The Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment states "private property [shall not] be taken for public use, without just compensation." The Fifth Amendment restricts only the federal government. The Fourteenth Amendment extended this clause to include actions taken by State and local governments. Whenever the government wants to buy property for public use, they make an offer to the owner. If the owner does not want to sell the property, the government can take them to court and exercise a power called eminent domain. The name comes from the Latin term dominium eminens (meaning supreme lordship). The court then condemns the property (meaning say it can no longer be occupied by people). This allows the government to take over the property, but must pay "just compensation" to the owner. In other words, the government body must pay what the property is worth.

A case heard before the U.S. Supreme Court, Kelo v. City of New London, 545 U.S. 469 (2005), was decided in favor of allowing the use of eminent domain to transfer land from one private owner to another private owner. The court upheld the city of New London, Connecticut's proposed use of the petitioner's private property qualifies as a "public use" fell within the meaning of the Takings Clause. The city felt the property was in poor condition and the new owner would improve it. This extension of the Takings Clause has been very controversal.

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Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.