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self-incrimination

n. making statements or producing evidence which tends to prove that one is guilty of a crime. The 5th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees that one cannot "be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself…" and the 14th Amendment applies that guarantee to state cases. Thus refusing to testify in court on the basis that the testimony may be self-incriminating is called "taking the Fifth."

See also: Miranda warning  rights  taking the Fifth 

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The People's Law Dictionary by Gerald and Kathleen Hill Publisher Fine Communications

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