Sometimes Silence Is Louder Than Words: Salinas v. Texas

posted Jun 20, 2013, 9:09 AM by Helen Partlow   [ updated Jun 20, 2013, 9:15 AM ]

In every day life, people often say “I plead the 5th” when they do not want to incriminate themselves.  This refers to the 5th amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  Miranda Rights, formed from Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966), are invoked when a suspect is both in police custody and is being interrogated.  When the rights are read, the suspect learns that he has a right to remain silent and everything said can and will be held against them in a court of law.

Recently, there was a Texas case where a suspect, Genovevo Salinas, did not respond to a question that the police had asked; he remained silent.  He was not considered to be in police custody at the time and thus was not read his Miranda Rights.  The prosecution used Salinas’ silence to help aid them in their case.  Salinas’ attorneys claimed that the right to remain silent could be claimed even when not in custody and before Miranda Rights are read, thus not allowing it in as evidence.

The highest court in Texas, the Court of Criminal Appeals, confirmed Salinas’ conviction by holding that pre-Miranda silence can be used in a court of law and that it is not protected under the 5thamendment.

The Supreme Court of the United States granted certiorari and made a determination on Monday June 17, 2013.  The Supreme Court confirmed the Texas Court’s holding in a 5-4 vote, which states that pre-Miranda silence is not protected and may be used as evidence.

 

For more information: SCOTUS Blog; USA Today Article