Constitution Daily

Smart conversation from the National Constitution Center

Fifth Amendment: Grand Jury, Double Jeopardy, Self-Incrimination, Due Process

February 5, 2014 by NCC Staff


As part of the National Constitution Center's 27 Amendments (In 27 Days) project, each day we will look at a constitutional amendment. Through partnerships with leading scholars and universities, government agencies, media outlets, and more, the National Constitution Center will profile one amendment each day throughout the month of February.

Courtroom_United_States_CourthouseToday, we look at one of the most well-known amendments: the Fifth Amendment, which protects personal rights.

Full Text of the Fifth Amendment

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 offence 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.


Indictment by a grand jury requires the decision of ordinary citizens to place one in danger of conviction. Double jeopardy means that when one has been convicted or acquitted, the government cannot place that person on trial again. The self-incrimination clause means that the prosecution must establish guilt by independent evidence and not by extorting a confession from the suspect, although voluntary confessions are not precluded. Due process of the law requires the government to observe proper and traditional methods in depriving one of an important right. Finally, when the government seizes property to use in the public interest, it must pay the owner fair value. Source:  U.S. Senate


This amendment contains many important protections, including the right to grand jury indictments for capital crimes, the prohibition on double jeopardy, the ban on compelled self-incrimination in criminal cases, and the so-called “Takings Clause,” which says that private property can’t be “taken for public use without just compensation.” It also contains the fundamental guarantee that no person can be “deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.”  But what is “due process?” Without this clause, the government could be able to force you to testify against yourself or deny you a fair trial all together. However, these rights come with a cost, and the government spends a lot of money and other resources to guarantee them.


1. The Library of Congress Constitution Annotated. Contains a detailed history of the amendment, along with past and recent court cases. Here is a link to the section on the Fifth Amendment. Here are explanations from the LOC that are in an online-friendly format from FindLaw:

2. Cornell Legal Information Institute.  Includes  information from Wex, a free legal dictionary and encyclopedia sponsored and hosted by the Legal Information Institute at the Cornell Law School. Wex entries are collaboratively created and edited by legal experts.

3. U.S. Courts website. This resource puts you in the shoes of the Justices who decided the Miranda case. Two activities frame the arguments and put the Miranda decision in perspective.

Learn more about this project at the Constitution Center's website at:

More Constitution Daily Historical Stories

Looking back at the last presidential election settled by the House

How Abraham Lincoln lost his birthday holiday

Did Abraham Lincoln omit God from the Gettysburg Address?

50 interesting facts about Abraham Lincoln’s life

Sign up for our email newsletter