Legal Question in Constitutional Law in California

Fifth Amendment Right

Can a witness in a civil or criminal trial evoke his Fifth Amendment right to refuse to answer specific or particular questions selectively, or must he refuse to answer ALL questions in advance of answering even the first one put to him?

Asked on 11/30/00, 11:14 pm

2 Answers from Attorneys

Ken Koury Kenneth P. Koury, Esq.
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Re: Fifth Amendment Right

As a general rule, a witness cannot pick and choose individual questions to answer or not answer under the Fifth Amendment. The safest way to proceed, is to refuse to answer all questions in a particular subject area.

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12/04/00, 12:47 am
Edward Hoffman Law Offices of Edward A. Hoffman
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Re: Fifth Amendment Right

I believe Mr. Koury's answer is in error, although I have not researched the point and you should not take my answer as Gospel. I believe, however, that a witness may answer the questions he or she wishes to answer and may assert the Fifth Amendment privilege where he or she deems fit. Otherwise, showing up and answering the question "What is your correct name?" would seem to waive the Fifth Amendment protection -- an extraordinary result, as I see it.

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12/04/00, 1:32 am

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