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Car Accidents, DUI & The Privilege Against Self Incrimination


A recent civil deposition discovery issue that our office faced in a Connecticut automobile negligence case was how to handle a defendant deponent who asserted his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination.

The defendant refused to answer questions on virtually every topic that he was questioned on.The defendant deponent had a pending DUI criminal case that had not been fully resolved.

The way we handled the issue was to allow the deponent to assert his privilege on the salient topic areas we questioned him on.

The Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination may be invoked by a deponent during a civil deposition. However, in a civil case at trial, a jury of six may draw a reasonable adverse inference against the person who invokes the privilege and refuses to answer questions on salient probative case issues.

In a personal injury case, the privilege against self-incrimination is often asserted by a witness or a party where the witness or party fears a criminal penalty or criminal conviction. Civil cases where the deponent "takes the fifth" at trial or in deposition may flow from criminal acts such as income tax evasion, failure to file an income tax return, fraud, sexual molestation or driving under the influence of alcohol.

An attempt by a defendant to testify at trial in a self-serving way where the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination was asserted earlier in a deposition logically results in the impeachment of the defendant with his prior inconsistent deposition testimony.

If you have been a drunk driving accident, contact our Stamford car accident lawyers at The Rotatori Law Firm for skilled representation.