Constitutional FAQ Answer #36 – The U.S. Constitution Online – USConstitution.net

Constitutional FAQ Answer #36

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Q36. “If you exercise your 5th amendment right and
the court grants immunity and you still refuse to incriminate yourself you can
be held in contempt and sent to jail. Locally, years ago a reputed Mafia boss
pleaded the 5th to every question he was asked about the ‘mob.’ He was granted
immunity from prosecution but continued to ‘take the 5th.’ His contention was
that he would get immunity from prosecution by the authorities but no immunity
from the ‘street.’ He served 7 years in NJ prison for contempt of

A. The Supreme Court has held, in many cases over time, that the granting of
immunity removes the danger of prosecution, and that is what the 5th Amendment protects. It does not envision
protection from elements outside the government as a valid reason for refusing
to testify. This makes perfect sense to me, actually. Since nothing
he said could land him in jail, he could be compelled to speak. The
“real-world” consequences have no bearing. It is an interesting legal

Last Modified: 16 Aug 2010

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