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The Fifth Amendment: Preventing Persecution by Prosecution

Without the Fifth Amendment, it would be easy for those in power to punish their enemies.

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The Fifth Amendment is one of the most important parts of the U.S. Constitution. It was established to protect people who become subject to the justice system. People who are charged with crimes – whether they are guilty or innocent – have rights that must be protected from the government, and this amendment is designed to do just that.

The text of the amendment reads:

“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 offense 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.”

Right to Jury

The Fifth Amendment is divided into four parts representing separate rights. The first part mandates that no person shall be subject to punishment without an indictment by a grandy jury. It requires the state to put forth their evidence to determine whether a suspect is to be formally accused of a crime.

The exception to this provision is when it involves members of the Armed Forces. Congress can establish rules of the regulation of “land and naval forces.” Therefore, military members are subject to military courts, which have different rules.

Double Jeopardy

The Fifth Amendment also protects a citizen from Double Jeopardy, which occurs when the government arrests and tries to convict a person for the same crime more than once. For example, if a person is arrested for a crime and acquitted – that is, found not guilty – the government can’t arrest this person again and try to charge them for the same crime. This section is designed to prevent the government from continuing to harass and target a citizen if they have been found “not guilty” of an illegal act.


The third section involves self-incrimination, which occurs when the accused might be compelled to testify against themselves in a court of law. In the United States justice system, a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty and it is the state’s responsibility to prove guilt.

This part of the Fifth Amendment allows the accused to refrain from answering questions that might incriminate themselves, for instance, if they are being questioned by the prosecuting attorney during trial. This clause exists because it can be easy to manipulate one’s words in a way that could make them appear to be guilty when they are not.

Average citizens do not have the same legal training and experience as attorneys and could fall into a trap. For this reason, suspects are sometimes advised to “plead the fifth” when they are on trial, meaning they do not have the answer the question posed to them.

Right to Due Process

This section protects a suspect’s right to due process. It prevents the government from taking life, liberty, or property from citizens without going through due process beforehand. This means that law enforcement officials must follow a specific and fair procedure before arresting someone or seizing their property.

The procedure law enforcement must follow to observe due process are typically based upon laws established by the state or federal government. It could apply to the rules governing how police obtain evidence and the process the justice system must follow before making an arrest and bringing someone to trial.

The Fifth Amendment exists to ensure that members of the government do not abuse their power. Without these types of safeguards, it would be easy for those in power to bully anyone they dislike or disagree with through the power of prosecution.

Race Relations & Media Affairs Correspondent at and A self-confessed news and political junkie, Jeff’s writing has been featured in Small Business Trends, Business2Community, and The Huffington Post. Born in Southern California and having experienced the 1992 L.A. Riots up close and personal, Jeff’s insights are informed by his experiences as a black man and a conservative.

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