Fifth Amendment Law & Legal Definition


The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution grants citizens (1) the right to be indicted by an impartial grand jury before being tried for a federal criminal offense; (2) the right not to have multiple prosecutions or multiple punishments for a single criminal offense; (3) the right to have individual freedoms protected by due process of law; (4) the right to be free from government compelled self-incrimination; and (5) the right to receive just compensation when the government takes private property for public use.

It states: "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 offence [sic] 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."

It is part of the Bill of Rights that the courts have applied to states through the Fourteenth Amendment. The right to a grand jury is one of only a few protections in the Bill of Rights that has not been applied to the states by the Fourteenth Amendment. Grand juries and the phrase "due process" both trace their origin to the Magna Carta from 1215. To "plead the Fifth" is a refusal to answer a question because the response could form self-incriminating evidence.