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When In Doubt, Demand Your Right To Remain Silent

What you say and what you don't say can be used against you in a court of law, according to a recent ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court. In Salinas v. Texas, the Court ruled that Salinas' silence during questioning by law enforcement about a murder could be presented in court to help prove that he is guilty of the crime charged.

How is that possible? How can exercising your right to remain silent be used against you in a criminal proceeding? If you are under investigation for a crime or being questioned about your involvement in a crime, regardless of whether or not you have been arrested or charged, you should call an experienced criminal defense lawyer.

Police suspected Salinas was involved in a recent murder and brought him to the station for questioning. He had not been arrested yet and police had not read him his Miranda rights. According to reports, Salinas answered some questions and remained silent on others, particularly a question about whether a gun found in his possession would match the shell casings found at the murder scene.

Salinas did not answer and prosecutors presented his silence during police questioning as evidence of his guilt. He was convicted and sentenced to 20 years in prison for the murder.

According to the Supreme Court, Salinas did not assert his right to silence or against self-incrimination by claiming the protections of the Fifth Amendment. The Court said that the Fifth Amendment must be expressly be invoked; in other words, Salinas could not assert his right to remain silent by remaining silent. He had to open his mouth and tell officers that he was exercising that right.

An ironic reading of the Fifth Amendment perhaps? The right to remain silent must be stated out loud by the person requesting its protections.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Supreme Court Rules That Pre-Miranda Silence Can Be Used In Court," June 17, 2013

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