The Fifth Amendment Protects the Innocent
Many believe that the Fifth Amendment right against self incrimination benefits only the guilty. This is simply not so. The complexities and ever increasing number of criminal laws create the potential that a person may be perceived as committing a criminal act even when no criminal intent was present. The Supreme Court in the case of Ohio v. Reiner, 532, U.S. 17 (2001) at page 21 wrote:
But we have never held, as the Supreme Court of Ohio did, that the privilege is unavailable to those who claim innocence. To the contrary, we have emphasized that one of the Fifth Amendment’s “basic functions…is to protect innocent men… ‘who otherwise might be ensnared by ambiguous circumstances,’ “Grunewald v. United States, 353 U.S. 391, 421, 77 S.Ct. 963, 1L.Ed 2d 931 (1957) (quotingSlochower v. Board of Higher Education of New York City, 350 U.S. 551, 557-558, 76 S.Ct. 637, 100 L.Ed 692 (1956) (emphasis in original). In Grunewald, we recognized that truthful responses of an innocent witness, as well as those of a wrong-doer, may provide the government with incriminating evidence from the speaker’s own mouth. 353 U.S. at 421-422, 77 S.Ct. 963.