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Supreme Court Rules Silence Can Be Used Against You In Court Of Law

Supreme Court
Kris Connor/Getty Images

The Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision back in June 2013 that prosecutors can use silence against you if your Fifth Amendment right is not invoked.

According to the Associated Press through Yahoo News, the ruling comes from a 1992 case in Texas where one Genovevo Salinas was suspected for the murder Juan and Hector Garza. Although at the time of questioning he was not charged for the murders, only detained for questioning.

Salinas cooperated with Texas law enforcement until they asked him one question to which he fell silent. The question involved the murder weapon where authorities asked if the bullets found on the scene would match a shotgun that was suspected to be used in the murder; a shotgun that belonged to Salinas.

During questioning, Salinas was not read his Miranda Rights and was not read his Fifth Amendment to remain silent. Salinas also did not invoke the right himself. Prosecutors then used that very silence to convict him in court and found him guilty of the murders.

The Fifth Amendment allows Americans against forced self-incrimination. The right has been expanded to police questioning while in custody, with police required to tell that person they have to right to remain silent without it being used in court.

Prosecutors stated that since Salinas was answering police questions, his right to silence was not invoked. Furthermore, Salinas was not under arrest at the time and was not compelled to speak about the crime in question.

“Fifth Amendment claim fails because he did not expressly invoke the privilege against self-incrimination in response to the officer’s question,” Justice Samuel Alito said to the Associated Press. “It has long been settled that the privilege ‘generally is not self-executing’ and that a witness who desires its protection ‘must claim it.’”

Now if citizens are in police custody and are asked a question they wish to remain silent on, they must now state that they are invoking their Fifth Amendment right to remain silent. Only then can authorities not use silence against you in a court of law. The silence right also applies once police read you your Miranda Rights.

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