taking the Fifth

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Also found in: Idioms.

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: self-incrimination)

References in periodicals archive ?
David Moyes has continued to plead the fifth amendment - that overhauling Aston Villa and swapping sixth for fifth is somehow meaningful - but while the argument was laudable, it was unconvincing.
WHERE YOU'VE SEEN HIM He Was the straight-o big bro in Thirteen and has reportedly dated his on-screen sister, co-star Evan Rachel Wood, but he won't talk about that: "I plead the fifth.
Well, I generally spend roughly pounds 400 on a suit, so I think I'd better plead the Fifth.
Spooks may always plead the Fifth and refuse to answer questions they judge might lose lives but the cloak and dagger should be reserved for operations - not avoiding accountability.
Rae said: 'I think I have to plead the Fifth Amendment on that one but it certainly led to a fair bit of banter between me and the crowd.
Any lawyer worth his Armani suit would have advised Rush to plead the fifth rather than risk incriminating himself.
He can plead the Fifth Amendment, the right to silence; he can deny the allegations and pit his word against Lewinsky's; or he can hold a press conference and adm it to the affair.
Pressed on whether he would be more efficient, he stuttered: "I am going to plead the fifth amendment.
Joseph McCarthy considered subversive, he plead the Fifth.
But as for the orang-utan, I'll plead the fifth amendment on that one.
David Coulthard finished third and when asked his opinion of the Ferrari shenanigans, he said: "I'm going to plead the fifth amendment, as they say here.
He had two options - either to testify, or to plead the Fifth Amendment and go to jail.