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Protecting Your Voice: Understanding the Fifth Amendment Right Not to Testify in Maryland

Posted by Kathryn Batey | Jan 29, 2024 | 0 Comments

In the intricate web of legal rights, the Fifth Amendment stands as a powerful shield, protecting individuals from self-incrimination. However it doesn't mean you can never be forced to testify if you don't want to. Whether you have the right to decline to testify, or even to just decline to answer certain questions on the stand, is a complicated issue and varies from case to case. 

The Fifth Amendment and Maryland

In Maryland Courts, individuals are protected against self-incrimination under two different laws: the United States Constitution and the Maryland Declaration of Rights. The Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution declares that no person shall be compelled to be a witness against themselves in a criminal case. Additionally, for extra protection, Article 22 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights declares that no man shall be compelled to give evidence against himself in a criminal case. 

Protecting against Self-Incrimination as a Witness 

While the most common time someone might refuse to testify in a case is when they are the defendant, the person charged, these protections can also often apply to witnesses. If your truthful testimony as a witness in a case might cause you to, under oath, admit to your own conduct that could be prosecuted - then you may be protected by the Fifth Amendment/Article 22 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights. Your own conduct could be things that happened during the incident and could be if statements you gave the police during the investigation were incorrect or knowingly false. If any of these things apply, you may be able to assert your Fifth Amendment right and decline to answer certain questions by an attorney if you are called to the witness stand. 

In Maryland, the determination of whether a witness has a Fifth Amendment right not to testify is based on each question asked by an attorney, and so the Court and the attorneys must go question by question to determine if you can be forced to answer. Many courts, however, may take a more casual approach to allowing a witness to take the 5th for their entire testimony. An experienced attorney can help you navigate the requirements of your specific case. 

Strategic Considerations:

There are many reasons not to testify as a witness and as a defendant in a case, but there are often many reasons why you may need or want to. These types of decisions can only be discussed with a qualified attorney who knows all of the facts of your specific situation. 


At Safe Harbor Criminal Defense, we are committed to ensuring that our clients fully comprehend their constitutional rights, including the Fifth Amendment right not to testify. Maryland's legal landscape is complex, and being armed with knowledge empowers individuals to navigate the legal system with confidence.

If you believe you may be called as a witness in case, or have questions about your rights in a Maryland Courtroom, call us at 240-200-4077 today! 

About the Author

Kathryn Batey

Kathryn Batey, the owner and firm practioner, has spent the entirety of her legal career defending clients against the justice system.  Kathryn graduated from American University's Washington College of law in 2012 and went to work immediately for the Maryland Office of the Public Defender, where...


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