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The Courts Crime United States

Supreme Court Decides Your Silence May Be Used Against You 662

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the should-have-just-left dept.
crackspackle writes "The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the State of Texas earlier today in a murder trial where the defendant, prior to be taken into custody, had been questioned by the police and chose to remain silent on key questions. This fact was bought up at trial and used to convict him. Most of us have seen at least enough cop shows to know police must read a suspect their Miranda rights when placing them in custody. The issue was a bit murkier here in that the defendant had not yet been detained and while we all probably thought the freedom from self-incrimination was an implicit right as stated in the Constitution, apparently SCOTUS now thinks you have to claim that right or at least be properly mirandized first." It appears that if you are "free to leave at any time" you lose a few rights. Fancy trick, up there with getting kids to write apology letters.
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Supreme Court Decides Your Silence May Be Used Against You

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  • wtf (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cosm (1072588) <thecosm3&gmail,com> on Monday June 17, 2013 @07:05PM (#44034601)
    so if the police dont read you your rights, you lose them? land of the...fuck it
  • by aristotle-dude (626586) on Monday June 17, 2013 @07:10PM (#44034631)
    When you remain silent, that is an action rather than a statement. Both your statements and actions can be used against you. It's right there in the Miranda rights.
  • Wow (Score:3, Insightful)

    by squidflakes (905524) on Monday June 17, 2013 @07:14PM (#44034665) Homepage

    Ok, first off it's the Miranda Warning, not the Miranda Rights. You have them at all times, read to you or not. The warning is there to remind you that you have the option not to incriminate yourself.

    Or, at least it was until this decision. Ahh, The Roberts Court, whittling our rights down one 5-4 at a time.

  • by v1 (525388) on Monday June 17, 2013 @07:21PM (#44034721) Homepage Journal

    I recall debating about that in the past. The question arose:

    Office: "stay here."
    Citizen: "Am I under arrest?"
    Office: "you want to be? no you're not under arrest, not yet. but just stay here for right now."
    Citizen: "Am I free to go?"
    Officer: "What did I just say to you? No, you are not free to go. STAY HERE while we xxxxx"

    this actually happens frequently. And I don't recall the issue being settled. If you can't leave, and aren't free to go, what is your legal status? What happens if you try to leave? (almost certainly bad things, resisting arrest, interfere with official acts, obstruction of justice, failure to obey an officer of the law, disturbing the peace, etc etc justifying arrest)

    So you're kinda in a pickle when they tell you you're not under arrest AND you're not free to leave. Is there a lawyer in the house that can explore this situation, and maybe even suggest some advice? (I know, fat chance, "yes I am a lawyer, NO I am not YOUR lawyer, and this is not legal advice", but do what you can)

  • by aristotle-dude (626586) on Monday June 17, 2013 @07:24PM (#44034737)

    Miranda rights are only read to you if you're being arrested. But I guess you'd have to read all the way to the fourth sentence in the summary to see that this guy hadn't been arrested at the time his silence was used against him.

    So, whether you are arrested or not, your silence can be used against you. What is you point exactly? Have you never heard of the phrase "your silence speaks volumes"? The silence in a specific context can be more incriminating than anything a person might have to say.

  • Re:wtf (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cosm (1072588) <thecosm3&gmail,com> on Monday June 17, 2013 @07:25PM (#44034747)

    so if the police dont read you your rights, you lose them?

    No. The article explains that the person in question had NOT been arrested, had been freely answering other questions, but refused to answer one that concerned shotgun shells found at the murder scene.

    The ACLU [aclu.org] has a "bust card" [aclu.org] that helps clarify the matter. The person in the article should have kept his fucking mouth shut, period.

    Still befuddles me. So you're telling me if you provide any information whatsoever, you're legally obliged to answer every single question, even if it leads to self incrimination? IANAL so does answering some questions automagically count as forgoing your right to silence blanche carte?

  • by sconeu (64226) on Monday June 17, 2013 @07:27PM (#44034753) Homepage Journal

    "If you give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest of men, I will find something in them which will hang him." -- Cardinal Richilieu

  • Re:wtf (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cosm (1072588) <thecosm3&gmail,com> on Monday June 17, 2013 @07:32PM (#44034803)

    You always have your rights... it's just a question of if and how you exercise them.

    The difference here is the guy who went to talk to the police on his own (ie voluntarily) vs being arrested (ie unwillingly).

    The court ruled that in the prior, you have to make an affirmative statement as to you exercising your 5a rights.

    Still bullshit to me. The fact that not explicitly stating that one is exercising one's rights implicitly means forgoing them? Does this mean that if I don't affirm my right to free speech or a fair trial that I cannot speak freely or will not get a fair trial? From the article:

    Prosecutors argued such silence does not have constitutional protection because of the other questions Salinas had answered and since he was not under arrest and was not compelled to speak. A plurality of the Supreme Court affirmed for Texas Monday, noting that Salinas never expressly invoked the privilege when the officer asked about the shells. It has long been settled that the privilege 'generally is not self-executing' and that a witness who desires its protection 'must claim it...

    So rights are a privilege now to be dictated by loose wording and interpretation...fuck. that. shit....oh wait...should be old news in light of all the other bullshittery USDOJ spews.

  • by erroneus (253617) on Monday June 17, 2013 @07:34PM (#44034835) Homepage

    No one understands the constitution and what it is for.

    While it may be common practice for people to assert their 5th amendment rights, I fail to see how stating that assertion is a requirement. And problems with this ruling are glaringly obvious. What if someone merely doesn't understand the question being asked?!

    If I were in the same position and someone asked me if my shotgun would match the bullistics of some-such, I would not answer either. Why? Because the question doesn't make sense!!!! We're talking about a shotgun -- a scatter-gun if you will. That's the awesome thing about those weapons. They don't HAVE ballistics, Shotguns are not rifles. They don't leave marks on their projectiles which could trace a shot back to the shotgun that fired it. The closest they could come to connecting the two is GSR and that's just matching brands of shotgun shells.

    What could have been going through this guy's mind when they asked him the question? "Is this a trap? Why would they ask me this stupid question? If I tell them I think the question is stupid, will they become hostile to me? I don't want to provike them! My mom used to say 'If you can't say anything nice, say nothing!' What are these people trying to do?! Oh thank god they moved on to another question..."

    The government is now stating that a person much know their rights for their rights to exist. And this same government threatens all manner of trouble for anyone who teaches and explains to people what their rights are. Can we finally all agree that government is fully and generally opposed to people having any rights at all?

  • Re:wtf (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DaHat (247651) on Monday June 17, 2013 @07:52PM (#44034997) Homepage

    You didn't ask for your Fourth Amendment rights so you've also relinquished your rights against unreasonable searches and seizures, not to mention the requirement of a warrant or probable cause. Huzzah!

    Better analogy. The police knock at your door asking to take a look around, you allow them in and in the conduct of their permitted search, they find illegal drug paraphernalia on a table. They ask you "Is this yours?" and in response you ask them to leave.

    The 4th amendment doesn't apply (as the 5th in this case doesn't)... because said right was waved through the actions of the person involved.

    By allowing the police to search your home, you waved 4th amendment rights to the search (such as when/where it can end)... just as the person involved in this case did by opening his mouth in the first place.

    The difference... is that the person in this case had the ability to say "I'm done answering questions and choose to remain silent per my 5th amendment rights"... while in the case of your home being searched, criminal activity has been found that can be pinned on you so it's much harder to go back.

  • by LandGator (625199) <john,bartley&gmail,com> on Monday June 17, 2013 @07:53PM (#44035003) Homepage Journal
    > One hundred responses and not a single one interested as to whether the suspect is actually guilty of the crime or not.

    His guilt, sir or madam, is irrelevant. This is a change in case law, which concerned citizens need to share with others: If you say anything but the legal minimum, you're giving away an advantage to the prosecution which can be used against you even if innocent.
  • Re:Bad Summary (Score:5, Insightful)

    by vux984 (928602) on Monday June 17, 2013 @07:55PM (#44035023)

    I know I didn't kill someone with a shotgun.

    I don't know that.

    And I might be on your jury.

  • Re:wtf (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dwillden (521345) on Monday June 17, 2013 @08:03PM (#44035107) Homepage
    It would be BS had he chosen to simply stop answering questions period, but by selectively answering then not and then answering other questions he made a statement as clear as if he'd blurted out his guilt. If you claim the right to remain silent, do so, shut up and stop talking period. If you speak again, your selective silence is a clear statement. If anything it looks to me like this guy was trying to taint the entire interview. I think there is really no other way to rule on this. He was willingly answering questions, he could have claimed the right without speaking by simply shutting up, but as seen again those who break the law often lack the ability to remain silent, even though they have the right.

    Had he shut up at the uncomfortable question and remained silent his silence would not be admissible, but by then continuing to answer questions has has by his actions if not statement waived his rights.
  • Re:wtf (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fredgiblet (1063752) on Monday June 17, 2013 @08:05PM (#44035117)
    "Well the fact that he refused to identify himself made me suspicious..."
  • Re:Bad Summary (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ireallyhateslashdot (2297290) on Monday June 17, 2013 @08:08PM (#44035147)

    Or, alternatively, don't commit crimes.

    The cops can ask me any question they want. I know I didn't kill someone with a shotgun.

    You probably have already committed at least one felony today, and you probably weren't even aware of it. Our laws are so complex, and many of them so outdated, that it is nearly impossible to go about your daily life, upstanding citizen or not, without breaking at least one law.

    The reason why you shouldn't talk to the police isn't because "you haven't done anything wrong", it's because you don't know whether or not you've done anything wrong. If the police are not, and never have been, on your side; it is their job to find people who have broken the law, and any communication with law enforcement will be used to forward that goal.

  • Re:wtf (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pla (258480) on Monday June 17, 2013 @08:13PM (#44035183) Journal
    The 4th amendment doesn't apply (as the 5th in this case doesn't)... because said right was waved through the actions of the person involved

    Inalienable (Adj): - Unable to be taken away from or given away by the possessor: "inalienable human rights".

    If you convince someone to sell themselves into slavery to you, you can't enforce the contract because they can't "waive" their 13th amendment rights.
  • Re:wtf (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DaHat (247651) on Monday June 17, 2013 @08:34PM (#44035301) Homepage

    Inalienable (Adj): - Unable to be taken away from or given away by the possessor: "inalienable human rights".

    If you convince someone to sell themselves into slavery to you, you can't enforce the contract because they can't "waive" their 13th amendment rights.

    Clearly then the NDA I signed on my first day of work is unconstitutional as it violates my first amendment rights as I clearly have the right to go to the local media and spill my guts as to what my employer is building in secret (all legal projects, just not yet publically known).

    Ditto for the millions of smokers in this country who have sold themselves into a type of slavery based on their dependence on nicotine!

    Silliness aside... if we accepted your view that the 4th & 5th amendment rights were inalienable (or unalienable)... then what of those who 'wave' their Miranda rights and choose to talk to police? Surely too any kind of arrest or detention is illegal as it deprives them of their rights... even if said rights are limited by courts.

    I don't think you quite understand natural law.

  • Re:wtf (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Monday June 17, 2013 @09:50PM (#44035785) Journal

    Too late, we already have free speech zones and nearly two thirds of America lives in constitution free zones [aclu.org] so we passed that part of the slope a while back.

    Anybody who doubted we were going back to "the age of the robber barons" and one set of laws for the rich and one for the poor? Here ya go, if your ass don't have a lawyer on speed dial you be fucked.

  • Re:wtf (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sockman (133264) on Monday June 17, 2013 @09:50PM (#44035787)

    No, the Bill of Rights is a codification of the "god" given or natural rights every human possesses, regardless their tyrannical state interpretation. These are not rights GRANTED, but are rights enumerated among an infinite list of natural rights, these being the most important to put in to law (supposedly). Governments do not grant rights, they only take them away.

  • Re:wtf (Score:4, Insightful)

    by gr8_phk (621180) on Monday June 17, 2013 @10:07PM (#44035879)

    No. The article explains that the person in question had NOT been arrested, had been freely answering other questions, but refused to answer one that concerned shotgun shells found at the murder scene.

    The problem with that is they should have read him his rights prior to a question like that. So they failed to read him his rights before questioning and then questioned him and use his response against him. On top of all this stupid logic about when you do and do not have rights.

    From what I read, on the surface it seems quite likely he was guilty and ruling in his favor may change that outcome, but that is not supposed to be a consideration when dealing with constitutional issues. If the ruling on constitutional rights ruins the case one guy walks, but if the ruling erodes our constitutional rights, we all lose. One hopes the outcome of the case doesn't influence the decisions about the rules used to decide the case.

  • Re:wtf (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Monday June 17, 2013 @10:24PM (#44035979) Journal

    As someone who still has a 4 inch scar on the back of his head because of a cop that said, and I quote "Fucking niggers and God damned long hairs" allow me to say fuck you right back.

    The days of cops being there to "protect and serve" are long gone and you are fucking high if you still believe that, what we have now is gang bangers with badges [youtube.com] and you can stick your "citizen" bullshit straight up your ass, the country my family fought and suffered for? No longer exists.

  • Re:wtf (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 17, 2013 @10:31PM (#44036011)

    You always have your rights...

    you have to make an affirmative statement as to you exercising your 5a rights.

    So in other words, you don't always have them. "Always" suggests even those people who are unaware of their rights, still receive their benefit by default. This is the opposite - if you don't know you have the right, and don't deliberately exercise it, you aren't protected by it. Which is bullshit.

  • Re:wtf (Score:5, Insightful)

    by arth1 (260657) on Monday June 17, 2013 @11:55PM (#44036351) Homepage Journal

    In many countries, you can retract a confession, and it can then not be used as evidence against you. This safeguards against confessions given under pressure.
    After being sleep deprived and harassed non-stop by the police, people can confess to the damdest things, whether true or not. And it's sad that this practice goes on in some countries that call themselves civilized.

  • Re:wtf (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Dr. Spork (142693) on Tuesday June 18, 2013 @12:10AM (#44036419)
    I don't see why you have to be a dick to cops. Why wouldn't you just talk to them like a polite person? They don't have an easy job, and when people think of them the way rebelling teenagers think of their parents, it only makes their job harder to do well. It also increases the chances of them making horrible mistakes. I think we all have a stake in cops having accurate information when they're investigating crimes.
  • Re:wtf (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 0111 1110 (518466) on Tuesday June 18, 2013 @12:17AM (#44036437)

    First of all, I would like to formally invoke my First Amendment Privilege. For any dim-witted law and order types let me rephrase this: Don't taze me, bro!

    It is true that there is no country that respects natural rights or any sort of real freedom, at least officially. However, as an on again off again expat myself and someone who plans to leave the US within the next year and probably never return, I'll let you in on the secret. Most other countries are not quite so efficient at actually stomping on the rights of its citizens. I'd like to say, "Nobody does it better" but there are probably a handful of countries which do. Laws on paper are one thing. How the human beings in charge of things choose to enforce them is another. In my own personal experience people in positions of power in the other countries I have lived in are just plain nicer, are less likely to be sociopaths or sadists or bullies. Are less likely to take pleasure from making you miserable or ruining your life. Think Carmen Ortiz. In many ways she is America. Or just search for police brutality on youtube. We may have a piece of paper which talks about freedom, real freedom, but our culture is intensely anti-intellectual, glorifies stupidity and violence and arrogance and selfishness and greed and might makes right. We invented the Dunning-Kruger Effect [wikipedia.org]. More of us are behind bars than any other country in the world. We stand for punishment and revenge and bloodlust far more than we do for freedom. Here in the US I am afraid to even drive down the street. I might hit a roadblock which puts me into contact with some of the scariest, most violent, sadistc, and out of control police in the world. I believe we can compete with any country in that regard. Breaking even the most minor traffic law can put you into contact with these people.

    The worst part about having grown up in the US is that we are taught that we have these things called "rights". Some 18th century Libertarian extremists (what we would call terrorists today) decided that they were no longer the property of their king, that they would break free of their chains (typical terrorists). They read a cheeky, British phiosopher named John Locke and liked his idea of natural rights, that human beings inherently had the right to be left alone to live their lives in peace without being the property of anyone. That violating these rights was wrong. Full stop. That must have seemed like an awfully good place from which to begin a new social experiment, a new kind of Government-No-Government. A sort of Anti-Government Government where the thirst for power and the intense human need to enslave and control others would be reigned in as had never been done before in all of human history. Never even tried. So, due to our history and immense cultural denial, of all people I think it is most disorienting and uncomfortable for us when we realize that our government has no respect for our so called rights. [Sorry. SCOTUS doesn't like that term. Privileges, I mean. Generously granted to us by our kind, thoughtful masters.]

    It helps a lot to live abroad for a while. It sometimes allows the spell to be broken. It doesn't take long to realize that most other places just feel freer. It is realizing that you have a greater sense of freedom even in some communist countries that really tends to shock your monkey.

    When we finally free ourselves from the cultural brainwashing we start to see that we are really no more free than the vast majority of human beings on the planet regardless of our silly slogans that ceased to have meaning long ago, and that constantly repeating to ourselves, like a mantra, that we are free, that we represent liberty and individualism doesn't make it so.

  • Re:wtf (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BlueStrat (756137) on Tuesday June 18, 2013 @12:35AM (#44036501)

    Exactly my thought. Whatever happened to my right to murder someone and get away with it because of technicalities!

    Really? You're going there?

    "It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer". ...as expressed by the English jurist William Blackstone in his seminal work, Commentaries on the Laws of England. It is commonly known as "Blackstone's Formulation".

    Benjamin Franklin stated it as, "it is better 100 guilty Persons should escape than that one innocent Person should suffer".

    John Adams also expanded upon the rationale behind Blackstone's Formulation when he stated:

    "It is more important that innocence should be protected, than it is, that guilt be punished; for guilt and crimes are so frequent in this world, that all of them cannot be punished.... when innocence itself, is brought to the bar and condemned, especially to die, the subject will exclaim, 'it is immaterial to me whether I behave well or ill, for virtue itself is no security.' And if such a sentiment as this were to take hold in the mind of the subject that would be the end of all security whatsoever."

    Tyrannies have excellent conviction rates.

    Strat

  • Re:wtf (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ridgecritter (934252) on Tuesday June 18, 2013 @12:40AM (#44036529)

    Maybe not hard if one is educated, with a measure of economic security, perhaps belonging to the ethnic group that holds local community power, or simply among those who are good at keeping their heads in stressful situations. Maybe more difficult if one is poorly uneducated, perhaps somebody who both respects and fears authority, who doesn't have much economic cushion that might embolden them to assert their rights because they actually *could* call a lawyer, who has skin color different from the interrogating officers, or is just plain scared of police for whatever reason at the time.

    The law has to work even for (and especially for) those who don't know their rights, or who can't for whatever reason of circumstance assert them. Regardless of whether you're scared, intimidated, stupid, ignorant, or disenfranchised, you've got rights under the law. It's better for all of us when that's how our justice system operates.

  • Re:wtf (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sabriel (134364) on Tuesday June 18, 2013 @02:07AM (#44036819)

    I am not a lawyer and this is not legal advice:

    Oh, definitely. You always want to be very polite to the police, obey their lawful orders and never physically resist them in the lawful course of their duties (what's lawful? well, I suspect all you have to do is think about whether you'd like to end up in a court/hospital/coffin). Know your 4th and 5th Amendment rights (if you're in America) and how and when to use the phrases, "I do not consent to a search", "Am I being detained?" and "Am I free to go?" (again, if you're in America).

    This isn't a bad thing. After all, if you're a law-abiding citizen with nothing to hide, anything else'd be wasting the cop's time on your own taxpayer dime.

    But if you do ever happen to be in a casual conversation with an officer (I've known a few - good people), and you happen to tell them, "I have been advised by a police officer not to talk to the police," [1] and they say, "But that makes our job difficult!" you might reply, politely, "Sorry, blame the politicians and their endless tougher-on-crime-than-the-last-guy laws, putting more people in prison than Russia and China combined. That's what's making all our lives difficult." [2]

    (but be careful about talking about any of those endless laws in particular, it could be a trap)

    [1] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6wXkI4t7nuc [youtube.com]
    [2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_incarceration_rate [wikipedia.org]

  • Re:wtf (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rtb61 (674572) on Tuesday June 18, 2013 @02:26AM (#44036885) Homepage

    "I am not a lawyer" and yet under law you are deemed to have full and total knowledge of the law and ignorance is no excuse.

  • Re:wtf (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 18, 2013 @02:29AM (#44036895)

    ... They don't have an easy job ...

    Let me see: Carrying lethal weapons amongst an unarmed populace, lying to individuals of said populace and possibly to a judge, turning 'privileged' confessions into evidence, depriving individuals of their liberty without arrest, hiding evidence or 'forgetting' testimony, using hearsay as evidence. Now polite conversation becomes evidence of criminal behaviour. Yeah, I wonder why cops are so misunderstood. Shows like 'CSI' and 'Law and order' really teach us the law doesn't apply to cops and criminals have no rights.

    Being a dick is unproductive, but that doesn't change the facts:

    A cop is looking for a criminal; you will help him or you won't: In case of refusal, blackmail or false arrest can change that. An 'interview' is a weasel word for interrogation, which is a cop blackmailing you (via deprivation of liberty) to provide evidence. Anything you say or write to your family, priest, or alleged victim is evidence against you. Cops have illegally taped a conversation with the lawyer to blackmail the criminal into a legal confession!

    Do not talk about yourself to any cop!

  • Re:wtf (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Sabriel (134364) on Tuesday June 18, 2013 @09:10AM (#44038397)

    If we treat them all as sub-human scumbags, then with very few exceptions all we'll get back is the same attitude. Classic us-vs-them polarisation, which is already a bad enough risk in the profession. Remain strictly polite in person, even friendly if you can manage it, and (if you're lucky enough to have the time/resources) work to change/prevent the causes (e.g. tough-on-crime political spirals) rather than scratch at the symptoms - that just makes it bleed more.

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