SCOTUS: One Must Expressly Invoke His or Her Right to Remain Silent to Invoke 5th Amendment Protections.


Salinas v. Texas:

sign with silence written on itThe U.S. Supreme Court held that a suspect who voluntarily provided answers to police questions could not assert that his silence to certain questions resulted in the invocation of his Fifth Amendment rights. The suspect was not in custody and did not receive his Miranda warnings, however voluntarily answered police questions about a murder, but fell silent when the police asked whether ballistic testing would match his shotgun to shell casings found at the scene of the crime. At the petitioner’s murder trial, the prosecutor introduced evidence of the petitioner’s failure to answer questions about the ballistic testing as evidence of the petitioner’s guilt despite his objections. Petitioner was convicted and brought his claim to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Court found that petitioner failed to invoke the privilege in response to the officer’s question. The Court reasoned that there were only two exceptions to when a defendant does not have to expressly invoke the privileged neither of which applied in this case. The first, at the defendant’s own trial, and the second, where governmental coercion makes his forfeiture of the privilege involuntary. The petitioner in the instant case was not facing his own trial and voluntarily accompanied police to the station where he was free to leave at any time. Petitioner argued there should be a third exception to express invocation where the witness chooses to stand mute rather than give an answer that officials suspect would be incriminating. The Court rejected this argument stating that there were a multitude of reasons a defendant may decline to answer the officers’ questions, and that the Fifth Amendment guarantees that no one may be “compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself”, not an unqualified “right to remain silent”. The Court stated that it has long required defendants to assert the privilege in order to subsequently benefit from it.

Read the Full Opinion Here:

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