I Plead the Fifth!/Analysis and Erosion of the Fifth Amendment

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This is the fifth essay of the “Breakdown” series. We’ll explore the individual rights in the Bill of Rights. And where they stand today. Comments appreciated, now lets begin.

“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 offense 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.”

Taking this piece by piece.

“No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury…”

This is where the charges against you are presented to a Judge and a Jury to see if they have merit. The judge explains the law to the jury, the prosecution lays out how you allegedly broke them. During this, they can drop lesser charges and cannot add more against. No tossing darts just to see what sticks.

“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;”

For some reason this doesn’t apply to the military. Maybe it’s the self-policing action of the various rules through history, like the current Code of Conduct/Military Law/UCMJ, and Conduct In War? Seems logical to me.

“nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb;”

Double Jeopardy. The same court cannot try you twice for the same charges if your acquitted. If a state court acquits you, a federal court can try you again, or if the same crime was also committed in another state. Then your going on a road trip to meet the judge.

“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;”

Originally protection against anything said under torture or threat of from being used against you. Now it’s the Miranda Rights and “pleading the fifth”. You don’t incriminate yourself under questioning before or during the trial. You get to face the accused, not just tossed in the clink.

“nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”

Eminent Domain, I hate it with a passion. The Government was given the right to take your land so they may add a government building. I like a lot of the Constitution but not this part. The Feds and State should make a offer for land and if no, then that’s it. Now they seize it and pay a pittance for your land. They use it for highways, and even shopping malls for their corporate paymasters. Theirs instances where land was taken for a store to built.Like this one. They may get more tax money from the store but it has no right to confiscate your land.

Remember that just societies have a  check and balance system. Government makes laws which are enforced by cops. Laws are just words on paper, you don’t have to follow them, which is why we have cops. The Constitution and the Bill of Rights are the laws that keep the Federal Government in check BUT it’s just words on paper unless enforced by someone. Guess who that is? WE THE PEOPLE, and we are failing miserable due to apathy and complacency. A little monetary or physical security in exchange for freedom and liberty. Not for this wolf, I’m not one of the flock, I’m above it and have taken it upon myself to snap you from your slumber, remove your blindfolds and show you how IT IS!

Another essay to follow on the Sixth Amendment in a couple of  weeks. Next Friday will probably be busy.

© Vance Gatlin 2010

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