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What to know about Fifth Amendment rights

Those who are charged with a crime in Oklahoma or any other state may choose to invoke their rights under the Fifth Amendment. The Fifth Amendment allows a person to refuse to answer questions or otherwise take steps that may incriminate themselves during a legal proceeding. Individuals generally have this right whether the charge is handed down by federal, state or local authorities. One of the rights granted by this amendment is the right to choose not to testify at trial.

Individuals can choose not to testify at a civil trial if they believe that doing so could expose them to criminal charges. However, in the event that a person chooses to testify, he or she must answer any question posed by a prosecutor. In a criminal trial, jurors are not allowed to consider that a defendant exercised this right while determining that person's guilt or innocence. This rule does not apply in a civil trial.

In addition to defendants, witnesses enjoy some rights under the Fifth Amendment as well. While they cannot choose whether to testify in a trial, they can choose whether to answer specific questions posed to them. It is important to note that the Fifth Amendment cannot be used to keep DNA, fingerprint or similar evidence from being introduced at a trial.

Individuals are generally not required to speak with the police or testify at their own trials. A criminal defense attorney may help a defendant learn more about his or her rights and how to protect them. If a person's rights were violated at any point during the legal process, it may result in evidence being suppressed. If evidence is suppressed, it might create leverage for an attorney to ask for a plea deal or to dismiss all criminal charges.

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