Political Broad

Fifth Amendment preserves our right to due process, and more

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by Laurie Chapman

Like the First Amendment, there is substantial information packed into the Fifth Amendment. In this section, our founding fathers have addressed issues such as double jeopardy, due process and eminent domain. It also provides citizens the right to remain silent, or not implicate themselves.

The following is a transcription of the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution in its original form.

Amendment V

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

The first part of this amendment addresses the right of a citizen charged with a capital crime to be presented before a grand jury. Typically, most states satisfy this requirement through preliminary hearings. The one exception, outlined in this amendment, is specific circumstances relating to the military.

The Fifth Amendment also precludes citizens from being subject to double jeopardy. No individual may be tried for the same crime twice. Additionally, a citizen cannot be compelled to implicate themselves in the court of law. This is commonly referred to as pleading the fifth, where a defendant or witness invokes the right to remain silent.

In Miranda vs Arizona, 1966, the court expanded on the right to remain silent as presented in the Fifth. The court held that all individuals must be advised of their right to remain silent and to an attorney. If an individual is in police custody and being interrogated, failure to advise the individual of their rights makes their statements inadmissible in court.

Also relating to the court of law, the Fifth guarantees a fair, orderly and just trial. As with the wording for double jeopardy, the Fifth Amendment only applies to the federal government. However, the text of the 14th Amendment applies both issues to states as well.

Finally, the Fifth Amendment addresses eminent domain. This states the federal government may not take personal property for public use without just compensation. In Chicago, B. & Q. Railroad Co. vs. Chicago, 1897, the court held the 14th Amendment also extended in this arena to the states.

Determining just compensation typically entails assessing the property’s fair market value. The piece of this section that has been troublesome relates to the intended use of the property.

A controversial opinion was issued by the U.S. Supreme Court that allowed private property to be seized for private commercial development. Justice John Paul Stevens issued the 5-4 decision in Kelo vs. City of New London, 2005.

The court’s opinion stated:

“The takings at issue here would be executed pursuant to a carefully considered development plan, which was not adopted “to benefit a particular class of identifiable individuals,” … Rather, it has embraced the broader and more natural interpretation of public use as “public purpose.” In a nutshell, the court agreed that allowing the city to take ownership of a condemned property with the intention of economically revitalizing it would benefit the public. While the space might be directly privatized, the public as a whole benefits from an approved, productive space. Idaho certainly has its share of public lands, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see this amendment raised in future suits relating to land usage.

Laurie Chapman publishes Political Broad bi-monthly and takes an informative, opinionated peek at the functions of government. If you have a suggestion for the author, e-mail her atlchapman@idahocountyfreepress.com or call her at 208-983-1200.


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