Pleading The Fifth Law and Legal Definition

Pleading the fifth is the act or an instance of asserting one’s right against self incrimination under the Fifth Amendment. It is the refusal to testify under oath in a court of law on the ground that the testimony might be used as evidence against the witness to convict him/her of a criminal offense. In the court of U.S. a person is at liberty to not answer certain questions which may lead him to be a witness against himself. It is based on the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which states that no person should be compelled to be a witness against himself/herself.

Pleading the fifth is applied to state courts by the 14th Amendment. The term became famous during televised Senate committee hearings on organized crime in 1951, when a series of crime bosses took the Fifth. The phrase I take or plead the Fifth is often used in non-legal contexts to convey a reluctance to answer a potentially embarrassing question.

Pleading the fifth is also termed as taking the fifth or demanding the fifth.