Supreme Court: Right to Remain Silent Must Now Be Invoked

Submission by Robin Yeamans

The US Supreme Court recently ruled that in order to assert your right to remain silent, you must speak up and say you invoke the Fifth Amendment. In Salinas v. Texas, Mr. Salinas answered officers’ questions for an hour but became silent when police questioned him about shotgun shells found at the crime scene. At trial the prosecutor used Salinas’ silence to persuade the jury he was guilty, and he was convicted of murder.

Justice Alito stated in the Court’s ruling that the defendant’s “Fifth Amendment claim fails because he did not expressly invoke the privilege against self incrimination in response to the officer’s question.”

Justice Breyer, writing a minority opinion disagreed, pointing out, “But does it really mean that the suspect must use the exact words ‘Fifth Amendment’? How can an individual who is not a lawyer know that these particular words are legally magic?”

A public defender from San Francisco pointed out: “This ruling will hurt our most vulnerable citizens: the mentally ill, those with language barriers, people with little education and those who are under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of their questioning.”

The US Supreme Court, so careful to protect corporations’ supposed rights, are destroying the rights of others, literally ripping up years of precedent.

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