Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Fifth Amendment Protection

The Fifth Amendment generally protects a party from incriminating themselves in a criminal case.  However, what application does it have in a civil case?  The law is pretty clear that a witness can invoke the privilege in a civil case.  In the case of Morgan v. U.S.F.& G., 222 So.2d 820 (Miss. 1969), the Mississippi Supreme Court set out the ground rules on page 828 that (1)  The witness must take the witness stand; (2) The witness must invoke the privilege on a question-by-question basis; (3) The claim of privilege is determined by the court, and not by the witness; and (4)  An inference may be drawn against the witness.  The fact that an inference can be taken often has many consequences.  I was involved in a case this week where a party could not legitimately answer a number of extremely relevant questions on a custody case without severely incriminating herself.  Result, settlement reached with custody to the Father.  

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