Silence can be used against defendant

In Salinas v. Texas, No. 12-246, 2013 BL 158572 (2013), the Supreme Court that a defendant who didn’t expressly invoke his 5th Amendment privilege against self-incrimination before an arrest can have his silence used against him in court.

In this case, defendant Salinas voluntarily went to the police station.  Here, Salinas answered questions until he was asked whether the shell casings found at the murder scene matched his shotgun.  This silence was used against him in court.  Salinas was then convicted of the crime.

The Supreme Court held that there was no violation of the right against self-incrimination.  The Supreme Court stated,

 Petitioner’s Fifth Amendment claim fails because he did not expressly invoke the privilege against self-incrimination in response to the officer’s question.

The Supreme Court explained that a defendant does not invoke the privilege by remaining silent.

The Supreme Court raised an interesting question: what happens if the defendant had invoke the 5th amendment?  Justice Alito explained that the court did not have to decide on what the result would be if the defendant had indeed asserted his privilege.

Justice Thomas, however, in a concurring opinion, stated that even if Sallinas had invoked the privilege, the silence could still be used in court.

Justice Thomas explained:

A defendant is not ‘compelled . . . to be a witness against himself’ simply because a jury has been told that it may draw an adverse inference from his silence.


via SCOTUS: Silence can be used against defendant who didn’t claim privilege in voluntary meeting – ABA Journal.

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Filed under civil rights, courts, legal decision, Supreme Court

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