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Your Right to Remain Silent Is Not What It Used to Be

Your Right to Remain Silent Is Not What It Used to Be

The U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark 1966 decision in Miranda v. Arizona held that police cannot interrogate suspects who are in custody without first advising them that they have the right to remain silent. That constitutional protection has been eroded by the Court’s June 2013 decision in Salinas v. Texas.

When your silence incriminates you

In Salinas, shotgun shells at the scene of two residential murders were the only physical evidence in the case. Investigators spoke to a number of people at a party the night of the homicides, including Genovevo Salinas, who accompanied police to the station as a witness. He was not in custody, and the homicide investigators did not advise him of his Miranda rights.

The questioning revealed that Salinas owned a shotgun, and he agreed to provide the weapon to the investigators for ballistics testing. The investigating officers then asked Salinas if his shotgun would match the shells found at the scene of the murders.  At that point, Salinas said nothing but gave the appearance of being uncomfortable by biting his lip and shuffling his feet. His failure to answer this question, combined with his body language, was presented as evidence of guilt at his murder trial.  

Salinas appealed his conviction for the murders, arguing that the homicide investigators used his silence to incriminate him. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that since Salinas did not verbally invoke his right to remain silent, he had waived his rights.

Before helping the police, help yourself

Anyone who’s arrested will benefit from the assistance of an experienced attorney whose practice is dedicated solely to criminal defense. If you are facing charges or being investigated for a crime, do not speak with the authorities until you have retained a skilled defense attorney.

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