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Dysart Willis

Thinking about pleading the fifth? Here is what you should know

When you are facing criminal charges in North Carolina, you need to remember to be careful about what you say, who you say it to and what you do. You may feel tempted to explain your side of things to your friends, relatives and even cellmates. But your words and actions can help to strengthen the prosecution’s case.

One way you can avoid saying and doing something in your trial that may come back to hurt your case is to plead the fifth. 

The fifth amendment protects against self-incrimination 

It may seem as if “pleading the fifth” is an admission of guilt. However, the prosecution cannot use it as evidence of this. This right allows you to avoid participating in your own prosecution, regardless of your guilt. Bear in mind that if you have made statements before pleading the fifth, the prosecution may use information from those statements against you and possibly hurt your credibility. 

How pleading the fifth can impact your case 

Remaining silent about your circumstances may be a good criminal defense tactic if there is little evidence or no eyewitnesses. It is also beneficial if you are not a good public speaker or may accidentally say something or use body language that could make you look guilty or turn the jury against you. Pleading the fifth enables you to avoid incriminating yourself for other crimes that may be related to your current charges and from subjecting your case to any biases that may turn the jury against you. 

It is important for you to understand that you cannot use your fifth amendment right to pick and choose which questions you want to answer. If you plead the fifth, you stay silent. Talk to your attorney for guidance on how to respond to the courts. But always remember, the courts cannot use your plea as evidence or when determining your sentence. 

This information is only intended as educational material and should not be used as legal advice.