Question: Do defendants have a 5th Amendment right not to testify in a civil case?
Answer: Yes, but that failure to testify can be used against them and considered by the jury.
It is a bedrock principle of our criminal justice system that no person shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself. The 5th Amendment, incorporated to the States by the 14th Amendment, not only protects the individual against being involuntarily called as a witness against himself in a criminal prosecution but also privileges him not to answer official questions put to him in any other proceeding, civil or criminal, formal or informal, where the answers might incriminate him in future criminal proceedings.
However, a civil defendant who chooses to avail himself of this protection, however, does so at his peril: “the Fifth Amendment does not forbid adverse inferences against parties to civil actions when they refuse to testify in response to probative evidence offered against them. A defendant’s invocation of their 5th Amendment privilege during trial testimony is to be considered by the jury.