In criminal law, the giving of evidence that might tend to expose the witness to punishment for a crime. The term is generally used in relation to the privilege of refusing to give such evidence. In some continental European countries (e.g., Germany), a person fearing self-incrimination may make his own decision as to whether or not he will testify. In Anglo-American practice, a person other than an accused cannot refuse to testify; he may only cite his privilege against self-incrimination, and the judge then decides whether he must testify. If required to testify, he must answer all questions except those he considers to be self-incriminating. The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution contains a provision that protects a person from being compelled to make self-incriminating statements, one intention being to prevent coercion of testimony. See also rights of the accused; exclusionary rule.

This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
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