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VERIFY: No, the Fifth Amendment can't be used to opt-out of the census

A viral video claims that one can use the Fifth Amendment to get out of completing the census. This is false.

WASHINGTON — Question:

Is a viral video claiming that the Fifth Amendment can be used to get out of doing the Census legit?


No. The Fifth Amendment protects people from incriminating themselves. However, the information provided in a census form would not incriminate someone. For that reason, the Fifth Amendment doesn't apply, according to legal experts. 


Peter J. Smith, The George Washington University Law School

Michael C. Cook, Sr., Census Bureau


A viral video, published in 2010, has popped up yet again as people fill out their 2020 census forms. In the video, the narrator claims that people can choose not to answer questions on the census, simply by writing Fifth Amendment instead. 

"As you can see here," the narrator said. "I've actually written in Fifth Amendment as each answer."

The Verify team turned to legal expert Peter J. Smith, a law professor at The George Washington University, to get his response to this viral video. 

"I think the answer is no," Smith said. 

Smith pointed out that the Fifth Amendment protects people from self incriminating, something which doesn't relate to the Census questions. 

"Writing Fifth Amendment isn't some sort of magic solution," he said. "That would avoid having to answer questions that the government calls mandatory."

Michael C. Cook Sr. from the Census Bureau agreed, adding that filling out the census is important because it can decide voting power and funding for the next decade.

"I'm talking about funding for schools," he said. "Funding for roads, funding for health care."

For more information on the census, visit here.

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