Friday, May 24, 2013

1178 Pleading the 5th

1178 Pleading the 5th

When you plead the 5th Amendment, everyone else assumes you’re guilty of something.

It’s the crutch of crooked government officials, underworld figures, polluters, violators of the labor laws and the occasional bank president or financial guy.

All of the above generally are guilty of something.

But technically that’s what it’s about --  not having to testify against yourself in a court case.

The question today is are there other uses for this handy piece of the Constitution, and if so, how can we use them.

Cop pulls you over and says “you been drinking?”  If you answer... any answer, and there’s booze on your breath, the cop will smell it and you’re toast.

So you reach for the 3x5 card you carry that says “on the advice of counsel I decline to answer under the 5th amendment.”  You have the right to remain silent even if you weren’t Mirandized.

Probably that’s not going to make the cop too happy, and instead of giving you one of those bogus tests on a badly calibrated breathalyzer, or making you repeat the alphabet backwards from M to C, he’ll just cuff you and take away your keys.

He’s wrong to do that.  But at three in the morning on a deserted highway in the middle of nowhere, this guy has more power over you than gravity.

Okay, so that’s a scratch.

Before you were pulled over, you were sitting at the bar and the bartender asks “what’s yours?” and you plead the 5th, you’re going to get a Long Island Iced Tea made from everything on the top shelf.

Okay, so that’s a scratch.

How about when “Honey Doll” thinks you’ve been slipping around with someone and you say “Honey Doll,” I’m pleading the 5th.  How’s that going to go over?  Yeah, thought so.
Another scratch.  And it’ll probably be somewhere on some exposed part of your body, at that.

Well, let’s try another.  The bill collector calls and is looking for you by name.  He asks you if you’re that person and you plead the 5th.  There’s an off chance that that’ll work.


When the chirpy waitress at the diner asks you how you’re doing, and you plead the 5th, chances are she will think you’re nuts.  And that will likely affect the kind of service you get for the rest of your visit.

Maybe greater use of the 5th isn’t such a hot idea after all.


--The Arias case... we get a vacation for a month or so since the jury couldn’t decide whether to sentence her to life or to death.  The murder conviction stands, but a new jury must be convened to decide what’s next.  But there’s no vacation for the family of the victim.

--The Boy Scouts of America has voted to admit openly gay boys to its ranks but not to its leadership.  Other wise-crackers will say it brings new meaning to the phrase “boy scout.”  But they’re wrong.

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to
(But don’t ask too many questions or I’ll plead the 5th.)
© WJR 2013

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