The 5th Amendment Research Essay

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The purpose of the United States Constitution was to protect citizens' rights from abuse by the government. The constitution ensures that citizens can exercise their freedoms without worrying about law enforcement organizations violating their legal rights. Although most people overlook this truth as being obvious and not paying it the proper attention, it should be noted that this has not always been the case. Over time, the judicial system and the legislature have worked together to advance the rule of law and enact constitutional changes. In the United States, the sources of criminal law include the federal government which enacts law passed by the US congress, individual states enacting statutes, and the common law that is defined by the judges (Malloy et al. 189). The purpose of this essay is to analyze the Fifth Amendment to the US Constitution and evaluate how the Supreme Court decisions have impacted the law enforcement in the interrogating suspects.

The Fifth Amendment to the US Constitution can be categorized into five rights. The first is the right to have a Grand Jury indictment before criminal charges can be conferred on a suspect. The exception to this provision is in the cases that arise from land or naval forces or in militia and the individual is in actual service or in public danger. The law further provides for prohibition of a person to double jeopardy from the same offense. It also provides that an individual shall not be coerced to justify against self in any criminal proceeding (Blocher 275). The law further guarantees right to life, liberty and property to the citizens without the necessary process of law (Malloy et al. 183). Finally, the amendment provides right to private property meaning that the government cannot forcefully occupy or take private property without just compensation.

Grand Juries

The intention of the Grand Juries is to protect the accused individuals from the occasional overly-zealous prosecutions. The practice of using grand juries dates back to the English colonial era. A Grand Jury is a body that consists of laymen who are not bound by the technical rules and act in secret. The members of the jury are pledged not to indict any suspect because of prejudice or to free anyone as a way of granting special favors to the suspect. While the principal function of the grand juries is to return criminal indictments, they also perform other functions including investigating through serving summons to witnesses as it may deem necessary (Blocher 275). The exclusionary rule in such proceedings may not be applicable.

Double Jeopardy

The double jeopardy clause is focused on protecting the individuals against harassment through the successive prosecutions resulting from alleged act. The clause further seeks to ensure there is significance to a specified acquittal and prohibits the state to expose a suspect to emotional, physical, psychological, and various financial troubles (Malloy et al. pp. 183). The difficulties are avoided as they would lead to multiple trials entailing the same alleged offense. Consequently, there should be a guarantee that the defendant will not face a second prosecution after being convicted and an assurance of stopping multiple punishments for the same offense.

Supreme Court Decisions Impacting Law Enforcement Interrogations

One of the crucial Supreme Court cases that have largely impacted on the conduct of the police is Miranda v. Arizona (1966). The high profile case led to the development of common law referred to as the ‘Miranda warnings’. These warnings protect the defendants from testifying in a case in a manner that would incriminate themselves (Malloy et al. 183). Whenever suspects have been taken into custody, the law requires that they are informed of their rights. Defendants have the right to remain silent. Besides, they have the right to the legal representation during the interrogations (Blocher 293). Lastly, the defendant has a right to an attorney appointed by the government if he or she cannot afford one. Miranda warnings have also provided the law enforcement agencies with ethical and dependable means of interrogating suspects to get confessions. The rule requires that the Miranda warnings are explicitly spelled out to the suspect in custody before any interrogations can be done.

The decision from the Miranda v. Arizona (1966) has had immense influence on the criminal justice system. Before these ruling, some confessions were obtained involuntarily through coercion of suspects by dishonest law enforcement agents. Some police officers may have abused the power provided for by the Constitution to obtain a confession (Jacobs 3). Such tactics as scaring suspects and unethical judgment may have made some suspects to admit to felonies that they may not have committed. The Miranda warnings are also significant as they help the suspects in custody to make intelligent and voluntary decisions on whether to waive the rights provided by the rights (Blocher 273). The understanding of the rights helps the suspects to make informed choices when being interrogated by the law enforcement officers.

The second case is the Edwards v. Arizona (1976). The United States Supreme Court overruled the Arizona Supreme Court finding that since Edwards had made a request to have a lawyer present during a first interrogation, any further interrogation without the presence of a lawyer amounted to violation of his rights. The confession that had incriminated him was rendered inadmissible because the court determined that the police officers did not have grounds to tell Edward that he had to talk to them (Edwards v. Arizona, 1981, p.479). Besides, the reinitiating of the interrogations without an attorney after requesting for one in an earlier questioning and the subsequent confession violated his Fifth Amendment rights.

Videotaping Interrogations

Videotaping is one of the methods that have been used while interrogating suspects. While there are reservations to the use of the technique, its use has been beneficial. This technique assists both the suspects and the police to ensure that the convicted individuals are the actual perpetrators of the crimes. During the interrogation a record of procedures and actions of the suspects and the investigator are stored. This method ensures that the rights of the suspect are not abused and the confession obtained is voluntary and does not violate the Fifth Amendment rights of the suspect (Malloy et al. 181). It also acts as deterrence to the coercion of the interrogators to obtain evidence or confessions. Videotaping interrogations helps the police officers avoid the disputes that arise regarding their conduct during the interrogations. The suspects may not, without sufficient reason, change the initial statements if the investigators had complied with the regulations. The method further captures details that may have been missed in addition to allowing the officers to concentrate fully on the questioning.

The people that are against the use of videotaping in interrogations argue that the technology may be misused to perpetrate an injustice. They cite the ability of the recorded video and audio files to be edited through deletion of some sections which may lead to a false conviction or wrongful acquittal. However, it must be noted that technology is meant to assist the officers capture details and hints that would be missed in interrogations without videotaping.

Prevention of False Confessions

False confessions are a challenge to the criminal justice system as they have led to wrongful convictions and acquittals. Some of the reasons that have been cited for the false confessions include real or perceived determent of the suspects, coercion during questioning, untrustworthy methods of interrogating and the fear of a harsher punishment (Malloy et al. 181). To prevent false confessions, it is critical that the entire interrogation is electronically recorded to create an accurate record of the happenings. In situations where a recording was not made, a mandatory instruction to the jury asking them to disregard the confession if they believe it was obtained through coercion should be issued. Confessions that are not recorded properly or not recorded at all should be suppressed by the judges. The application of electronic recording of interrogations can be achieved through legislation, adopting of policies by various police departments or through the judicial system.


The 5th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States is a crucial law that allows the citizens to enjoy their liberties without being coerced to plead to charges before a proper criminal procedure has been constituted. The law provides that criminal charges against suspects can be conferred by a grand jury. It also gives the suspects the rights to an attorney, prohibits double jeopardy and guarantees the right to remain silent to avoid self-incrimination. The suspect interrogation process is crucial to the realization of a strong criminal justice system. Wrong interrogation practices have led to wrongful convictions and acquittals. One of the reform strategies that is being employed in the interrogation process is the electronic recording of the entire process. The technique eliminates illegal interrogating techniques and violation of the rights of the suspect as well as provides the officers with a record of the statements of the defendant.

Works Cited

Blocher, Joseph. “The Death Penalty and the Fifth Amendment.” Northwestern University Law Review, 2016, pp. 275–93.

Edwards v. Arizona. 451 U.S. 477 (1981). Retrieved from LexisNexis Academic database.

Jacobs, David F. “The Fifth Amendment in the Digital World.” Reporter, 2016, pp. 2–6,

Malloy, Lindsay C., Elizabeth P. Shulman, and Elizabeth Cauffman. "Interrogations, confessions, and guilty pleas among serious adolescent offenders." Law and human behavior 38.2 (2014): 181.

Miranda v. Arizona. 384 U.S. 436 (1966). Retrieved from LexisNexis Academic database.

July 15, 2023

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