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Fifth Amendment protections against self-incrimination

A previous blog post discussed the self-incrimination clause of the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It entitles suspects and defendants to be informed of their rights to remain silent and to have an attorney present during interrogations. The right must be clearly invoked and re-invoked after any breaks in interrogation to be effective in halting all questioning. Defendants' rights against self-incrimination extends to criminal trials as well; they may choose not to testify.

There are many other rights granted under the Fifth Amendment, including that of double jeopardy.

The Double Jeopardy clause of the Fifth Amendment states that no person shall be subject, for the same offense, to be twice put in jeopardy of life and limb. However, the Supreme Court of the United States has clarified that the right against double jeopardy applies to all criminal offenses - felonies and misdemeanors - even if they do not carry corporeal punishments.

The Bill of Rights ensures that double jeopardy protections extend not only to defendants in federal proceedings but also to criminal defendants in all state and local jurisdictions. The right only applies to defendants in criminal proceedings and not civil or administrative proceedings. This is because criminal proceedings are punitive whereas civil and administrative proceedings are remedial in nature. There can therefore be a criminal trial and a civil trial brought against a defendant for the same underlying offense.

The double jeopardy protection exists to protect innocent persons from being erroneously convicted due to the government's extensive resources, to protect defendants from the hardship of successive prosecutions, to ensure that the government respects the outcomes of criminal proceedings and to prevent judges from imposing cumulative punishments for the same crime. A future post will discuss other Fifth Amendment protections for other areas of criminal defense.

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