Right to Remain Silent
If you have ever watched a television show or a movie about the police or criminal lawyers, you should already know that the United States Supreme Court held in a case called Miranda v. Arizona that a criminal suspect who is in police custody must be advised of his right to remain silent. If the suspect chooses to remain silent, that silence cannot be used against him in a trial.
The question before the Court in the case of Salinas v. Texas was whether the right to remain silent applies before a suspect is actually arrested. Genevevo Salinas voluntarily went to the police station, where officers interviewed him about two murders. When asked whether a shotgun given to the police by his father would match shell casings found at the crime scene, Salinas did not answer. At his trial for the murders, prosecutors used Salinas’s silence as evidence of his guilt. Salinas was convicted.
On June 17, the Court held that prosecutors can use “precustodial” silence of suspects against them at trial. Because Salinas failed to invoke his right to remain silent in response to the officers’ questions, his silence was fair game at his trial. The Court decided that the privilege against self-incrimination applies only when it is asserted, and that merely remaining silent in response to questions is not enough. One more reason that when questioned by the police, the only correct answer to any question is “I want a lawyer now”.