Joseph A. Lombardo
Many of us have seen characters from our favorite movies and television shows “plead the fifth,” but what does that mean? The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution establishes the right against self-incrimination. Essentially, someone who pleads the fifth is invoking their right to remain silent so that they may avoid answering questions or providing information that is self-incriminating. In New Jersey, this precedent has been established through common law and has been incorporated into the New Jersey Rules of Evidence.
You can invoke the fifth amendment in a New Jersey criminal case to avoid testifying. Furthermore, your silence or refusal to answer questions during a custodial interrogation cannot be used against you during a criminal trial. Still, the guidance of our attorneys can be very helpful when deciding whether to plead the fifth in your case.
Contact our experienced Atlantic City criminal defense lawyers for help fighting charges and protecting your interests. Speak with our team at Lombardo Law Group, LLC today by calling (609) 445-4300 for a free case review.
The Right Against Self-Incrimination in New Jersey
The right against self-incrimination is set forth by the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Essentially, this amendment affords criminal defendants the right to refrain from testifying against themselves. While in a custodial interrogation or other form of post-arrest interrogation, this privilege entails the so-called “right to remain silent.”
According to the Supreme Court case of Malloy v. Hogan, defendants in both federal and state criminal cases may plead the fifth. Furthermore, the right against self-incrimination has been established through New Jersey common law and has been established under NJ Rules of Evidence 501-503
Fortunately, at trial and during custodial interrogations in criminal cases, your decision to plead the fifth cannot be used to infer that you are guilty. Still, those who do not understand their rights can be taken advantage of. Our attorneys will help you confidently decide when invoking the fifth is the right decision in your case.
Why is the Fifth Amendment Important in New Jersey Criminal Cases?
The right against self-incrimination set forth by the Fifth Amendment is crucially important for our justice system. No one should be forced to confess against themselves. The right against self-incrimination protects the interests of criminal defendants and keeps them from being taken advantage of. Furthermore, it forces governments to actually prove defendants’ guilt as opposed to convicting them on mere suspicion.
Without the right to remain silent, your silence could be used against you. This would give defendants the tough choice between remaining silent and having that used against you, telling the truth and having that used against you, or lying and being convicted of perjury. This right is important because it allows you an option that does not hurt your case.
The right against self-incrimination is now a crucial part of our judicial system. In some cases, it may be necessary to keep the accused out of jail. Thankfully, our Atlantic County criminal defense lawyers can help utilize the right against self-incrimination effectively in your case.
Can Witnesses Plead the Fifth in New Jersey Criminal Cases?
Like defendants, witnesses in criminal cases may also plead the fifth in order to avoid testimony that is self-incriminating. Witnesses that face subpoenas to testify must appear for their testimony. However, they may refuse to answer any questions that they consider to be self-incriminating.
For example, a witness may decline to answer a question that they fear will implicate them in a crime. Furthermore, the criminal activity at issue does not have to pertain to the case in which the witness is testifying.
In certain cases, the prosecution may offer a witnesses immunity as a trade for their potentially incriminating testimony. If a witness is afforded immunity from prosecution, then they cannot face charges related to any incriminating statements they made during their testimony and cannot plead the fifth.
What Happens if a Police Officer in New Jersey Does Not Read Your Miranda Rights Upon Your Arrest?
A relatively common violation of the right against self-incrimination occurs when police officers fail to read defendants’ Miranda rights during custodial interrogations. The reading of these rights may also be referred to as a “Miranda Warning.”
The requirement that police officers read the Miranda rights to those being arrested has been established through the Supreme Court case of Miranda v. Arizona. In Miranda, the defendant confessed to a crime while under police questioning. However, their lawyer argued that their client was not informed that they were not obliged to speak the police or that he could request legal counsel. The Court decided that statements from the defendant’s interrogation could not be utilized unless the prosecution demonstrated the use of procedural safeguards that effectively secure the right against self-incrimination.
Therefore, during a custodial interrogation, a police officer must inform a suspect in custody of their right to remain silent and have an attorney. If the officer does not provide a Miranda Warning, then their conduct will constitute a violation of the defendant’s rights and any evidence obtained by virtue of that violation must be dismissed. If you were not notified of your Miranda rights while under custodial interrogation, then you should contact our Mays Landing criminal defense attorneys as soon as possible.
Criminal Defendants in New Jersey Can Call Our Law Firm for Help
Defendants in criminal cases can seek assistance from our experienced Camden County criminal defense lawyers by calling the Lombardo Law Group, LLC at (609) 445-4300 for a free case assessment.
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