Taking the Fifth

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“Taking the Fifth" is a colloquial term used to refer to an individual’s decision to invoke their right against self-incrimination under the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution. During questioning by government investigators, this entails exercising an individual’s right to remain silent. At trial, an individual may “take the fifth” by declining to testify in their own defense, and the prosecution may not comment on such a decision. Moreover, a jury is prohibited from drawing an adverse inference. The protections enshrined in the Fifth Amendment apply to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment

[Last updated in August of 2021 by the Wex Definitions Team]