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Should I plead the fifth?

If you ever find yourself apprehended by the police for a crime in Wisconsin, you may wonder if you should speak up or plead the fifth. One of your Miranda rights states you have the right to remain silent to avoid self-incrimination. You may not realize it, but you do not have to say anything to law enforcement except to give them your name, birth date and other information they can use to identify you. During a criminal trial, you can plead the fifth. The jury and the prosecution cannot use that protection to determine your guilt. 

The prosecution can use your words to incriminate you 

You may feel like sharing certain details about your situation with police officers, your cellmate and anyone who may listen. However, you never know when someone may repeat what you say and who they may say it to. Regardless of your guilt, not staying quiet can hurt your criminal case and lead to a less than desirable outcome. There are a few things you should know before you decide to plead the fifth. 

In the criminal justice system, you can be penalized for the things you say and how they are interpreted. However, when you plead the fifth, you do not say anything at all. You do not answer some questions and avoid others. When you plead the fifth, you are silent for all questioning. You can use the fifth to keep from saying something that may incriminate you during your arrest, booking or trial. Keep in mind that pleading the fifth does not erase or make anything you say before invoking that right inadmissible in court. 

Protection against self-incrimination does not extend to some evidence 

If the prosecution or courts have physical evidence they want to use against you during your trial, your Fifth Amendment right cannot protect you. Its protection does not extend to certain types of physical evidence like DNA samples. 

If you ever decide to invoke your Fifth Amendment right, you should say something like, “I would like to use my Fifth Amendment right to stay silent until I talk to my attorney,” or, “I plead the fifth.” Once you make it known you are using your constitutional right to avoid self-incrimination, all questioning should stop. If it does not, continue saying nothing and inform your attorney.

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