What does the 5th Amendment mean in the U.S. Constitution?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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There are a number of aspects to this amendment.  Some of the aspects of the amendment are very different from one another.  To the extent that there is a dominant theme to this amendment, it is the idea that people should be protected from various government activities in terms of trials and punishments.  There are four main protections in this amendment.  They are:

  • Double jeopardy.  People can only be tried once for a given crime.  This prevents the government from charging a person with a crime and then trying them over and over again, ruining their lives and keeping them constantly on trial.
  • Self-incrimination.  It is illegal to require a person to testify against themselves in a court of law.  The government has to prove the case against a person; it cannot just require them to confess.
  • Due Process.  A person cannot be put in jail, fined, or otherwise punished unless they have gotten the “due process of law.”  This means that they have to be tried and duly convicted in order to be punished.
  • Takings .  The government cannot take a person’s property without paying them “just compensation” for what is taken.

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