Aldrich Law Firm, Ltd.
Aldrich Law Firm, Ltd.

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When can you plead the Fifth Amendment in a civil lawsuit?

If you find yourself involved in a Nevada business lawsuit, it can help to understand what your rights are in regards to testifying. Can you plead the Fifth Amendment for any reason if you do not wish to take the stand, or is there more to it?

According to The Washington Post, the Fifth Amendment serves as a protection to those involved in a criminal case, to prevent them from incriminating themselves. Therefore, you might have been told that you are unable to plead the Fifth Amendment in a civil case. This is, however, not entirely true. You could be called to the stand and required to testify, but you may be able to invoke the Fifth Amendment without being held in contempt of court if there is a concern that your testimony could be used against you later in a criminal case.

For example, if several executives from your company are called to the stand in a civil business fraud lawsuit, including yourself, you might worry that what you say could hurt you if a criminal case follows. Therefore, you might choose not to testify, under the Fifth Amendment. If, however, a case you are called to testify in is solely civil and has no criminal aspect, you cannot avoid testifying under the Fifth Amendment. It is also not permissible to plead the fifth simply because you wish to avoid embarrassment or defamation.

The rules surrounding your testifying rights and obligations can be complicated. Therefore, it is important not to replace this information for the advice of a lawyer.

John P. Aldrich
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