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