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taking the Fifth

n. the refusal to testify on the ground that the testimony might tend to incriminate the witness in a crime, based on the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution, which provides that "No person…shall be compelled to be a witness against himself," applied to state courts by the 14th Amendment. The term became famous during televised Senate committee hearings on organized crime in 1951, when a series of crime bosses "took the Fifth."

See also: self-incrimination 

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