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Self-incrimination is the act of accusing oneself of a crime for which a person can then be prosecuted. Self-incrimination can occur either directly or indirectly: directly, by means of interrogation where information of a self-incriminatory nature is disclosed; indirectly, when information of a self-incriminatory nature is disclosed voluntarily without pressure from another person or documents.

United States law[]

The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects witnesses from being forced to incriminate themselves. To "plead the Fifth" is to refusal to answer a question because the response could be self-incriminating evidence. Historically, the legal protection against self-incrimination is directly related to the question of torture for extracting information and confessions.

In Miranda v. Arizona,[1] the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination requires law enforcement officials to advise a suspect interrogated in custody of his right to remain silent and to obtain an attorney.


  1. 384 U.S. 436 (1966) (full-text).