- Apr 14, 2017
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Can Any Witness Plead the Fifth?
At a criminal trial, it is not only the defendant who enjoys the Fifth Amendment right not to testify. Witnesses who are called to the witness stand can refuse to answer certain questions if answering would implicate them in any type of criminal activity (not limited to the case being tried). Witnesses (as well as defendants) in organized crime trials often plead the Fifth, for instance.
But unlike defendants, witnesses who assert this right may do so selectively and do not waive their rights the moment they begin answering questions. Also, unlike defendants, witnesses may be forced by law to testify (typically by subpoena).
1. From the first paragraph, is it correct to understand that witnesses can also plead the Fifth just like the defendant if it would implicate them criminally in either the case being tried or another incident for which charges have yet to be laid?
2. Does "this right" (in bold) in the second paragraph refer to the Fifth Amendment right?