‘Take the Fifth’ refers to the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America. When an individual ‘takes the Fifth’ in a court of law, they refuse to give testimony.
Every citizen of the United States of America has the right to refuse to testify in a court of law by stating that they wish to use their Fifth Amendment right to be silent because they fear testifying may incriminate them. Essentially you do not need to testify against yourself or give information to the prosecution that they can use against you.
The right to refuse self incrimination is used frequently in the courts when an individual does not want to testify. It is easier to say ‘I am invoking my Fifth Amendment right’, than it is to stand before the court and swear to tell the truth.
In Court You May Take The Fifth
If you are required to testify in a court of law, you can choose to take the Fifth. If you want to take the Fifth, you can simply say ‘I am invoking my rights under the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution’ or simply ‘I’d like to take the Fifth’, is sufficient.
There may be times when your Fifth Amendment right to refuse to incriminate yourself does not apply. For example, if you have been given immunity and therefore will not be prosecuted, you can testify without incriminating yourself.
In A Deposition You May Take The Fifth
You may also invoke the Fifth during a deposition (question and answering session) or another court proceeding.
When Talking To A Police Officer You May Be Silent
When a police officer asks you questions, you have the right to remain silent even if he did not read you your Miranda Rights, which tell you your rights. A police officer is only required to read you your Miranda Rights if you are being arrested. However, you still have the right to remain silent. If they persist in their questioning, you can ask for an attorney. Once you have asked for an attorney, they cannot question you further. You should not speak unless you have an attorney present.
It is very important that you always tell the truth to the court, the judge, the police and other governmental officials. To protect yourself from perjury, you should always choose to take the Fifth when you feel that you cannot tell the truth without incriminating yourself.