Wednesday, June 19, 2013

SCOTUS Decides Silence Can Incriminate

In a 5-4 "party-line" decision, the US Supreme Court decided that silence by the accused can be considered incriminating evidence. In order for it to be protected by the Fifth Amendment, you must verbally invoke the protections.

Last week, the USSC ruled against the state of Texas in regards to the Red River Compact and Oklahoma retaining its sovereignty over water inside its borders. This decision was, conversely, in favor of the State of Texas and its system of due process.

The court upheld in Salinas v Texas that the accused was properly read his Miranda rights statement. Afterwards, Salinas voluntarily answered many of the investigators' questions. However, when asked about what Salinas may guess ballistic tests would reveal, Salinas refused to answer. He remained silent, but never uttered any phrase indicating he was invoking his Fifth Amendment protections.

The Supreme Court upheld Salinas's conviction, stating that the Republic of Texas utilized appropriate due process in investigation, prosecution, and conviction.

This decision may cause a change to Miranda warning statements. Perhaps a new phrase of  "You have the right to remain silent and may invoke your Fifth Amendment rights, verbally, at any time" and "whatever you say, do not say, or do may be held against you in a court of law".

Justice Alito wrote the majority opinion:

So long as police do not deprive a witness of the ability to voluntarily invoke the privilege, there is no Fifth Amendment violation.
* * *
Before petitioner could rely on the privilege against self incrimination, he was required to invoke it. Because he failed to do so, the judgment of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals is affirmed.
It is so ordered.