The Fifth Amendment to our United States Constitution and New Jersey’s Constitution guarantees the right of an accused person to remain silent. This is one of our most cherished safeguards. It means that when someone is called to give testimony in a court, or to submit to questioning by a police officer, and that person is the target of an investigation or perhaps accused of committing a crime, he or she has the absolute right to refuse to testify or answer questions.

The Fifth Amendment creates a protective shield which gives the accused the confidence to say no to questions from police. No one can force an accused person to testify, not even a prosecutor or judge. The shield provided by the Fifth Amendment is always there to protect us. If a person is stopped for speeding, brought to the police station for questioning, subpoenaed to court, detained in a store for shoplifting, or in any other situation where the police or an investigative agency want to ask questions, he or she has only to say “I wish to remain silent under the Fifth Amendment” and all questioning must stop!

The importance of the Fifth Amendment lies in its power to protect us whether we are innocent, guilty, or not sure of ourselves. The Fifth Amendment is one of the most enduring and imposing rights not only for ourselves, but to protect our children, loved ones and neighbors.