What is the 5th Amendment? Trump declines deposition questions

People “Pleague for the Fifth” quite often on TV, but its real-life usage may be different.

NEW YORK – Former President Donald Trump was scheduled to be questioned under oath in New York’s civil inquiry into his business practices on Wednesday.

More than an hour after arriving at the office of New York Attorney General Letitia James on Wednesday morning, he sent a statement saying he declined to answer questions about the rights and privileges afforded to every citizen under the Constitution due to the United States.

The ex-president’s attorney had indicated he planned to advise Trump to remain a mother and invoke Fifth Amendment protections against self-incrimination. It’s a constitutional right that gets high-profile attention from everything from conventions to television crime shows, but there are nuances. Here’s what it means—and doesn’t—”to plead (or ‘gain’) the Fifth.”

WHAT IS “THE FIFTH”?

The Fifth Amendment to the US Constitution establishes a number of rights related to legal proceedings, including that no one “shall be compelled to testify against himself in any criminal proceeding.”

In the most immediate sense, this means that criminal defendants do not have to make damning testimonies in their own cases. But it is also used in non-criminal contexts.

WHAT IS BEHIND THE THOUGHT?

“It reflects many of our core values ​​and noblest aspirations,” wrote the Supreme Court in 1964.

These ideals include: preventing people from being tortured into confessing or thrown into a “cruel trilemma of self-incrimination, perjury or contempt” of court.

Many decades earlier, the court had also questioned the credibility of confessions made under duress.

THE AMENDMENT EXPRESSLY RELATED TO CRIMINAL PROCEEDINGS. HOW CAN IT APPLY FOR A CIVIL INVESTIGATION?

Over time, Fifth Amendment protections have been understood to cover witnesses—not just the accused—in criminal and civil courts and other government agencies. The Supreme Court has even ruled that Fifth Amendment rights protected the jobs of public employees who were fired after refusing to testify in investigations unless granted immunity from prosecution.

The Fifth Amendment also reinforces Miranda’s famous warning about the right to remain silent and have a lawyer available while being questioned in police custody.

SO ARE THERE ANY LIMITATIONS?

By what has become the legal standard, the witness must face real risk of criminal prosecution, said Paul Cassell, a professor of criminal law at the University of Utah. That means prosecution for every charge in every US court.

There is sometimes dispute as to whether the right is being exercised improperly. The questioner can ask a judge to explain that someone must answer or face contempt of court and possible penalties.

But “courts have generally felt that they should agree with someone who could be prosecuted, rather than forcing someone to testify and then be like, ‘Oops!'” Cassell said.

OK. CAN SOMEONE TAKING THE FIFTH CHOOSE TO ANSWER SOME QUESTIONS BUT NOT OTHERS?

Yes, it’s not necessarily all or nothing. But even choosing to answer selectively could be risky: answering one question may allow the other side to argue that the witness cannot refuse to answer other, related questions. Another problem: Seemingly safe questions could be used to provide evidence of a claim that the witness doesn’t already have on their radar.

IF YOU CALL THE PROTECTION, WILL IT WORK AGAINST YOU?

Legally it depends. In a criminal trial, prosecutors cannot comment on a defendant’s refusal to testify, and a jury cannot be told that it is okay to take a defendant’s silence as a sign of guilt. The Supreme Court has stated that allowing this conclusion penalizes the defendants for simply invoking constitutional protections.

But in civil cases, juries are generally allowed to remain silent to a defendant or witness.

Then there is the court of public opinion.

“Does it look bad? In the general public’s understanding, yes,” says Lenese Herbert, a criminal law professor at Howard University. “But that’s just a result of bad civics.”

The former federal prosecutor often reminds her students that while the jury wants to hear the defendant’s side, it’s a defense attorney’s job to make sure the jury understands that the client has the right not to comment.

CAN WE RETURN TO TRUMP? HE WILL BE QUESTIONED IN A CIVIL INQUIRY. CAN HE CLAIM POTENTIAL TO CRIMINAL PROSECUTION?

In fact, his attorneys have already claimed that New York Attorney General Letitia James’ civil investigation is essentially a fact-finding mission to Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s parallel criminal investigation.

James said their investigation found evidence that the businessman-turned-politician’s firm, the Trump Organization, inflated the value of real estate assets to snag loans, insurance and tax breaks for land donations. Trump has denied the allegations, and the Republican has called the investigation a political “witch hunt” by Democratic officials.

Meanwhile, other findings from James’ investigation prompted the attorney general’s office to file criminal tax fraud charges against the Trump Organization and its chief financial officer. The defendants have pleaded not guilty in the case, which includes claims for unscheduled compensation.

WHAT DID TEAM TRUMP SAY ABOUT EVERYTHING?

Trump attorney Ronald Fischetti has said that unless legal immunity is granted for the ex-president’s forthcoming testimony — a term for sworn pre-trial questioning — he would advise invoking the Fifth Amendment “because that law so provides”. Still, he claimed that publicity surrounding such a decision could harm Trump’s defense if a criminal complaint were filed later.

“How can I possibly pick a jury in this case?” Fischetti said as he tried unsuccessfully to block the statement.

Three of Trump’s adult children – Donald Jr., Ivanka and Eric – have already been interviewed. Eric Trump invoked the Fifth Amendment more than 500 times during his 2020 testimony, according to a court filing. Donald Jr. and Ivanka reportedly recently made their statements, and it’s still unclear if they made the fifth.

Trump himself repeatedly implied years ago that only people with something to hide take advantage of self-incrimination protections.

“The mob takes the fifth,” he once explained.

https://www.king5.com/article/news/nation-world/what-does-plead-the-fifth-mean-trump-declines-questions-new-york-civil-investigation/507-a69bbd5e-59ad-4605-b0a0-44a04217d95e What is the 5th Amendment? Trump declines deposition questions

Alley Einstein

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