Citizen Rights and the Fifth & Sixth Amendments
Debra Van Dyke
August 19, 2011
The Fifth and Sixth Amendments are part of the Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution stating what rights citizens have under the established United States government. Specifically, the Fifth Amendment defines some of the rights of an individual accused of a crime, or an individual whose statements might cause him or her to be accused of a crime. There are several rights contained in the Fifth Amendment. These are the right to be free unless indicted by a Grand Jury, the right to due process, the prohibition of double jeopardy, and the right not to testify against one’s self or self incrimination.
The right of due process establishes trial by a jury of peers, so that people accused of crimes will get a fair hearing before a court before any sentence is determined. This is the concept of being innocent until proven guilty. The Fifth Amendment obliges the court system to prove criminal behavior and to not take any actions against a person suspected of a crime, like hurting them, seizing their property or imprisoning them, unless a crime is reasonably suspected or proved. Another idea that comes with due process is that a person cannot be held in prison for an indeterminate length of time without charging them with a crime. (Miranda Rights & Police Questioning, n.d.)
A second provision in the Fifth Amendment is that people cannot be charged for the same crime twice, called double jeopardy. If a state fails to get a conviction on the first try, they cannot try again. This prevents the courts or legal system from harassment of a person through continued accusations of having committed the same crime.
The Fifth Amendment is better known to most Americans because of the phrase “I plead the fifth,” often used as a defense in criminal trials....