What Does It Mean to Plead The Fifth?

You have probably, at some point in your life, heard the phrase, “I plead the fifth,” whether it was in a movie, in real life, or on a talk show were your favorite celeb is getting roasted about their current love life. It’s pretty common, and a right that we all have. Maybe you’ve jokingly said, “I plead the fifth!” when a teacher asks you a question, or when your mom asks you where the last package of Oreos went. But, in reality, pleading the fifth is actually a serious thing, and you might of heard about it in the news recently.


According to the dictionary, when somebody pleads the fifth, they “refuse to testify against oneself in court, in accordance with the rights guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution. By extension, to refuse to answer a question or provide information, especially if doing so may incriminate or embarrass oneself.” In more basic terms, you don’t legally have to say anything you don’t want to. That’s not to say that you should plead the fifth for any and every situation, but it is your basic right. 

If you want some context to the word being used today, President Donald Trump’s former national Security advisor Michael Flynn is pleading the fifth and declining the senate’s subpoena AKA an order that brings someone to court. Basically, the Senate is investigating Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election, and Flynn is not cooperating, and pleading the fifth instead.

A reason why this is such a huge deal right now is that a common thought when somebody pleads the fifth is the fact that it MUST mean they are guilty. I mean, if they weren’t guilty, wouldn’t they just say so? Cooperating would just prove that you aren’t guilty, right? Obviously, everybody has a right to plead the fifth and not state things, but you have to admit it’s a little weird. Of course, we can’t really know what’s going on with the Flynn case, but it’s just getting a little more confusing as time goes by.

What do you think of this? Tell us in the comments!

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