Ask A Lawyer: Can You “Plead The Fifth” In Iceland? - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Ask A Lawyer: Can You “Plead The Fifth” In Iceland?

Ask A Lawyer: Can You “Plead The Fifth” In Iceland?

Published May 27, 2019

Andie Fontaine
Photos by
Mr.choppers/Wikimedia Commons

Anyone who’s ever watched a cop show or courtroom drama from the US is likely very familiar with the concept of “pleading the fifth,” i.e., the right to refuse to incriminate yourself in any answer to questions from a police officer or the courts. In other words, neither cops nor courts can make you say things that could get you in legal trouble. It’s a fundamental right enshrined in the US constitution, and can also be found in many other countries in the world, including the UK, China and India. But what about Iceland?

We asked lawyer and Grapevine founding member Jón Trausti Sigurðarson for the scoop. He confirmed that you can indeed refuse to incriminate yourself, by virtue of two separate articles of the Law on Legal Proceedings:

“According to Article 118 of the law, ‘A witness has the right to refuse to answer questions if the answer could be taken to be a confession or indication that they have committed a prosecutable offense, or an event that may cause ethical harm or emotional damage.’

“The above applies to witnesses in general. A different article applies if you’re the accused, but the concept is the same. This can be found in Article 113, Paragraph 2, which states: ‘The accused is not obliged to answer questions regarding prosecutable behaviour of which they are accused. They may also refuse to give a statement about prosecutable offenses or refuse to answer particular questions, for that matter.’”

Granted, saying “I plead the 113th” doesn’t have the same ring to the popular American equivalent, but at least you now know this right applies in Iceland, too.

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