What Does the Fifth Amendment Guarantee?

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The Fifth Amendment specifically guarantees the right to a grand jury and right to a fair trial in cases of criminal trials. In addition to those explicit guarantees, the Fifth Amendment provides other protective measures in matters involving criminal and civil proceedings. The Fifth Amendment reserves specific rights for citizens and requires the government to compensate property owners for private land taken for public use.

In addition to making guarantees and committing the government to justly compensate private landowners for takings, the Fifth Amendment contains explicit prohibitions. It prohibits double jeopardy, which essentially means that people cannot have lives or limbs placed in harm's way more than once for the same offense.

The Fifth Amendment also prohibits acts of self-incrimination in the hands of authority. Self-incrimination requires individuals to act as their own witnesses and subjects them to deprivation of life, limb or property without due process of law.

Although the provisions and purpose of the Fifth Amendment remain unchanged, its application to lower level courts expanded over time. Historically, only federal courts upheld the Fifth Amendment, since the Fifth concerns federal law. However, the Fourteenth Amendment, or Due Process Clause, expanded the Fifth's applicability to state courts. The Due Process Clause contains a substantive and procedural provision to ensure citizens' rights remain protected.