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privilege against self incrimina-tion

n. a right to refuse to testify against oneself in a criminal prosecution or in any legal proceeding which might be used against the person. This privilege is guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution, which provides: "No person…shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself…." Therefore, refusing to answer questions during a trial ("I refuse to answer on the ground it may tend to incriminate me") is called "taking the Fifth."

See also: Bill of Rights  taking the Fifth 

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