The Bill of Rights was ratified on December 15, 1791. The document contained the first ten amendments to the US Constitution. The Bill of Rights was written to balance the constitution’s expanded powers for the federal government. The document began with 17 amendments, but only ten were ratified. One important amendment is the fifth amendment, which contains several sections relating to different parts of criminal procedure. From all capital or infamous crimes requiring a trial by jury, to protection from ‘double jeopardy’, or going on trial for the same crime twice, the 5th amendment protects citizens of the United States from unfair legal proceedings. One part of the 5th amendment the interpretation of which has varied widely over the years is the clause on self-incrimination. This clause states that “no person shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself”. This clause has led to many landmark court cases such as Miranda Vs. Arizona, and Ohio vs. Reiner. How has the privilege against self-incrimination interpretation changed since its inception? When the fifth amendment was ratified, the self-incrimination clause was included so that the United States justice system could differ from a former British system. In Britain, between, 1487 and 1641, The Chamber of Star Courts was a justice system that was used. This system was based on pulling testimonies from the accused rather than the prosecutor proving them guilty. With the self-incrimination clause in the Bill of Rights, the US justice system developed into a much safer system for the accused, thanks to the fact that the prosecutor had to prove the defendant’s guilt rather than coerce a confession. Because of this, the self-incrimination clause set some of the foundations for the way that the U.S. justice system works.At its inception, the clause was interpreted word for word. A prosecutor wasn’t able to compel a defendant to incriminate himself. A key Supreme Court case that expanded the way the fifth amendment is used is Miranda Vs. Arizona. In 1963, Ernesto Miranda was arrested and brought to a police station where he was interrogated for possible kidnapping and rape. After a while, the officers were able to get a written confession from Miranda. The prosecution used this confession in the trial, despite the fact that the officers who interrogated Miranda had not informed him of his fifth amendment rights, such as having an attorney present during the interrogation. Miranda was found guilty, and when he appealed the case, the Supreme Court of Arizona aligned with this decision in stating that since Miranda didn’t ask for an an attorney, his rights weren’t violated. Once this case went to the Supreme Court however, the decision was reversed. In a 5-4 vote, the court held that protection from self incrimination always applied. This protection meant that confessions could not be used in court unless the defendant was informed of their rights. These rights became known as the Miranda Rights, or warning, and they will sound familiar to anyone who has watched any sort of crime television. Before an interrogation can happen, an officer must give the suspect the Miranda Warning by saying, “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you. Do you understand the rights I have just read to you? With these rights in mind, do you wish to speak to me?”. If this warning is not read to the suspect, any information taken from the interrogation can not be used. Additionally, if the suspect requests an attorney, the interrogation can’t continue until the attorney arrives. This court case made it so that suspects would always know what they were allowed to do when it came to being interrogated. This case increased the protection of the self-incrimination clause, and it made that clause more accessible to anyone who may want to use it. The decision did not come without controversy. For example, in his book The Tempting of America, Robert Bork voiced an opinion held by many conservatives in saying, “The catalogue of the Warren Court’s legislative alterations of the Constitution is a thick one … Criminal law was remade as the constitutional rights of defendants were multiplied, including the requirements that persons arrested be given the Miranda warnings, … these cases described a court that had spun out of control.” Many people felt that the decision in Miranda Vs. Arizona made it more difficult for law enforcement to prove the guilt of a defendant, and that the Supreme Court had expanded the meaning of the fifth amendment. The controversy of the decision shows how widely the interpretations of the self-incrimination clause vary.Another important, and more recent (2001), 5th amendment case is Ohio v. Reiner. While not as important as Miranda, Reiner also takes an expansive view of the 5th amendment. The court held that a witness (as opposed to a defendant) who has “‘reasonable cause’ to apprehend danger from her answers if questioned” at a trial may invoke the 5th amendment privilege. In this case, Matthew Reiner was accused of involuntary manslaughter for the death of his two-year old son. The defence tried to accuse the babysitter, Susan Batt, of causing the death. Batt decided to invoke her fifth amendment rights against self incrimination, but later she said that she did not have any involvement in the death. Reiner ended up being convicted. Later, the Ohio Court of Appeals reversed Reiner’s conviction, stating that “Susan Batt’s testimony did not incriminate her because she denied any involvement in the abuse. Thus, she did not have a valid Fifth Amendment privilege.” This case then went to the U.S. Supreme Court, where it was unanimously decided that Batt did have the fifth amendment right because she believed that some of her her words could be used against her since she had been accused by the defense. This court decision confirmed that the purpose of the right against self incrimination was not just to prevent compelled confessions, but also to protect the innocent from having their own words used against them. Despite all the protection the self-incrimination clause gives, there are loopholes that can be used to force a witness or suspect to talk. The prosecution can grant a witness immunity to force them to talk. If someone is granted immunity. It means that they can not be prosecuted for their statements, unless they lie, in which case that would be perjury. Since the person with immunity can’t be prosecuted, that means they’re not able to incriminate themselves with their statements, so testimony can then be forced. If the witness refuses to testify, they can be charged with Contempt of Court, or disrespecting the court of law. The approach of immunizing a witness to compel testimony is used, for example, in cases where law enforcement is trying to use the testimony of someone who commits a minor crime to convict a higher up, such as using a street drug dealer to try and convict a kingpin. The self-incrimination clause has evolved over the almost two and a half centuries since it was written. The protection it grants has become much more clear. Thanks to Miranda v. Arizona, suspects can’t be caught off guard anymore, and should always receive informed protection from their own words. By becoming more fleshed out, the self-incrimination clause has been able to fulfill its original purpose even better than before: to help protect Americans from injustice in the criminal process.