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The Courts Crime United States

Supreme Court Decides Your Silence May Be Used Against You 662

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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  • by Areyoukiddingme ( 1289470 ) on Monday June 17, 2013 @07:10PM (#44034633)

    The Supreme Court has managed to hold that in order to remain silent, you must speak.

    Oh my people....

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 17, 2013 @07:12PM (#44034649)

    Never, under any circumstances, talk to the police. If you are free to go, then leave. If you aren't then ask for a lawyer and shut up.

  • Bad Summary (Score:5, Informative)

    by Aranykai ( 1053846 ) <slgonser&gmail,com> on Monday June 17, 2013 @07:14PM (#44034667)

    The client did not answer one of several questions, and the prosecutor simply stated he had no response when asked a particular question. He was not charged with a crime for not responding, and he was not convicted of a crime for not responding. The ruling here was that the prosecution could admit as evidence that he did not answer a particular question during a conversation with a detective. Completely different things.

    This is why you DO NOT SAY ANYTHING to ANY QUESTION if you are being detained by the police. Be polite, request a lawyer and state frankly you are not answering any questions until you have counsel.

  • by MrEricSir ( 398214 ) on Monday June 17, 2013 @07:14PM (#44034669) Homepage

    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.

  • Re:wtf (Score:5, Informative)

    by cfsops ( 2922481 ) on Monday June 17, 2013 @07:21PM (#44034717)

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

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 17, 2013 @07:31PM (#44034797)

    If you are not free to go, you are under arrest.

    The instant they say "no," is the instant you start asking "what crime am I suspected of committing?" instead of "am I free to go?"

    When they say "nothing," then you go back to asking the first question.

  • not quite (Score:4, Informative)

    by Chirs ( 87576 ) on Monday June 17, 2013 @07:33PM (#44034821)

    To claim your fifth amendment rights to not incriminate yourself, they've decided you need to explicitly claim them.

    Also, there's nothing stopping the person from just not saying anything at all and asking for a lawyer.

    In this case the person answered *some* questions, then didn't answer one, and never explicitly took the fifth.

  • Re:wtf (Score:5, Informative)

    by Jane Q. Public ( 1010737 ) on Monday June 17, 2013 @07:34PM (#44034833)

    "... 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."

    Correct. It was what he did say, combined with what he did not say, that led to his conviction.

    That is why, even if you are "innocent" you should NEVER speak to the police about anything that involves you at all.

    HIGHLY recommended for everybody to watch, which explains why very clearly and in a no-nonsense way, are THIS VIDEO (part 1) [] and THIS VIDEO (part 2) []. About 49 minutes total. Very worth it.

    These are not some kind of government-conspiracy nuts but a defense attorney and a police detective.

  • by meta-monkey ( 321000 ) on Monday June 17, 2013 @08:00PM (#44035081) Journal

    As much bad news about the Constitution as we've had lately, here's the sitch from TFA:

    On the morning of December 18, 1992, two brothers were shot and killed in their Houston home. There were no witnesses to the murders, but a neighbor who heard gunshots saw someone run out of the house and speed away in a dark-colored car. Police recovered six shotgun shell casings at the scene. The investigation led police to petitioner, who had been a guest at a party the victims hosted the night before they were killed. Police visited petitioner at his home, where they saw a dark blue car in the driveway. He agreed to hand over his shotgun for ballistics testing and to accompany police to the station for questioning.

    Petitioner's interview with the police lasted approximately one hour. All agree that the interview was noncustodial, and the parties litigated this case on the assumption that he was not read Miranda warnings. For most of the interview, petitioner answered the officer's questions. But when asked whether his shotgun "would match the shells recovered at the scene of the murder," petitioner declined to answer. Instead, petitioner "[l]ooked down at the floor, shuffled his feet, bit his bottom lip, cl[e]nched his hands in his lap, [and] began to tighten up." After a few moments of silence, the officer asked additional questions, which petitioner answered [citations omitted by me].

    He wasn't under arrest and was voluntarily answering questions. Then not. Then was. He just shouldn't have talked to or gone with the cops in the first place.

  • by Connie_Lingus ( 317691 ) on Monday June 17, 2013 @08:03PM (#44035103) Homepage

    ...why soooo many people ever EVER talk to the police if the are even the least bit guilty of a crime...just shut up from the start.

    i live in florida and have had my issues with law enforcement. what people don't really understand about the Casey Anthony case is that SHE NEVER NEVER INCRIMINATED herself...ever! Its the main reason she got away with it...the prosecution was so used to having someone ANYONE sit on the stand and say "yes SHE DID IT and I saw it" that they hardly knew how to proceed without that bullet in their gun. I've seen the state drop serious felony charges against folks because they just didn't say a word when arrested, even with damning physical evidence!

    Don't you all know that 95% of all cases that go to trial are won by the prosecution on eyewitness testimony and self-incriminating statements? In other words, informants and defendants statements...not super-CSI high tech gadgets that network primetime TV likes to brainwash the...well, whoever it is who still watches that stuff...idk anymore who the heck that is.

    Oh well...i could go on about personal experiences in this matter but...i would DEFINITELY be incriminating myself...

  • by immaterial ( 1520413 ) on Monday June 17, 2013 @08:07PM (#44035135)
    There is a level between being free to go and being arrested: being detained. That is the status of the citizen in your hypothetical. There is a lower burden of proof for an officer to detain you, but the loss of freedom is smaller in scope.

    Say for example you're in a bar and a fight breaks out in which you aren't involved, injuries occur, and the police show up. They can detain you (and everyone else in the vicinity) for a brief period while they talk to witnesses and sort things out. They aren't arresting you. They have no cause (yet) to arrest you. They DO have cause to restrict your freedom for a brief period while they determine who what happened and who (if anyone) should actually be arrested.

    As it says in TFS, is the guy in question WAS NOT being detained.
  • Re:wtf (Score:3, Informative)

    by Aryden ( 1872756 ) on Monday June 17, 2013 @08:39PM (#44035331)
    Incorrect, you are allowed to answer some questions while taking the 5th on others. You see this in congressional hearings all the time.
  • Once again... (Score:5, Informative)

    by FuzzNugget ( 2840687 ) on Monday June 17, 2013 @08:44PM (#44035365)

    No, you don't even answer questions you think couldn't possibly incriminate you -- YOU DON'T ANSWER SHIT.

    There is absolutely nothing you could tell, say, state, offer, claim, express, suggest, proffer, conceptualize, indicate, discuss, confirm, deny, explain, confer, describe, disclose or elaborate that will help you in any way. Ever. Not ever.

    Because, with everything, not anything, *EVERY-FUCKING-THING* you say, they will manipulate, contort, pervert, twist, conjure, fabricate, invent, expropriate, conflate, decontextualize, recontextualize, repurpose, malform, conveniently misrecollect and abuse to mold your profile before a court into whatever preconceived concept of you was in their mind before they were ever aware you existed.

    The thing that almost no one seems to get is that cops live in their own delusional world where there are two types of people: cops and suspects. If you are not on their side, you are, by definition, on the side against them. It doesn't matter how innocent you are in actual fact and truth, you are a suspect, who cares if you're the wrong one?

    They do not work for the public, they work for their inflated ego, the department's revenue stream and the chain of command corrupted from the top down.

    Your right not to incriminate yourself is about the only defensive weapon you have against the might and resource of the police, prosecution and co. Use, assert and exploit it excessively and without relent.
  • Re:wtf (Score:5, Informative)

    by mark-t ( 151149 ) <markt@nerdfl[ ]com ['at.' in gap]> on Monday June 17, 2013 @08:49PM (#44035405) Journal

    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).

    Of course you have that right.... but your employer also has the legal right to sue you, and the NDA that you signed would ensure that he would win.

    But you wouldn't go to jail for it... nor would you necessarily be breaking any laws by divulging such information unless it involved state secrets of national security.

  • Re:wtf (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 17, 2013 @09:07PM (#44035543)

    NDA's aren't worth the paper they are written on. If more than 2 people have information and said information is leaked, it's impossible to prove who leaked it (unless you go on record with the Guardian).

  • by itwasgreektome ( 785639 ) on Monday June 17, 2013 @09:12PM (#44035573)
    "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."


    Most of us have seen enough TV to make us MISINFORMED about the world and what really happens.

    To set the record straight, reading of Miranda rights is only MANDATORY when you have arrested someone (or have custody of them and enough evidence to arrest them) and you are interrogating them about the crime. Before you have enough evidence to arrest someone you can continue to question them without mirandizing them until you reasonably believe you have enough information to arrest them. Once this happens, further interrogation only admissible in court if the suspect has been mirandized (read their rights). If an officer arrests someone but does not desire to question them about their crime that officer need not mirandize their suspect. Mathematically, as they teach in police academy:

    Miranda= Custody + Interrogation.

    Absence of both of those factors, Miranda not necessary.
  • Re:You are wrong (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 17, 2013 @09:51PM (#44035793)

    In these days, you don't consent to searches, you don't invite officers into your home, you don't open your trunk so they can see in, you don't offer information or volunteer to be questioned unless you are simply a witness to something.

    Those of us who carry firearms have become aware of one trick to watch out for during traffic stops: the officer takes your gun "for officer safety" (BS on its own in most cases) and when the stop is concluding, proposes to return it to you by placing it in your trunk. The reality is he wants an opportunity to see what's in the trunk, not that he is concerned about your access to the firearm.

    Also never forget that police are allowed to lie to you.

  • Re:wtf (Score:5, Informative)

    by im_thatoneguy ( 819432 ) on Monday June 17, 2013 @10:10PM (#44035897)

    I don't believe that's true. To quote

    Witnesses who are called to the witness stand can refuse to answer certain questions if answering would implicate them in any type of criminal activity.

    But unlike defendants, witnesses who assert this right may do so selectively and do not waive their rights the moment they begin answering questions.

    You have the right to shut up at any point but I don't believe you can shut up and then start talking and then shut up again. This was the point of debate in the IRS congressional hearing where the manager made a statement and then plead the 5th.

  • Re:wtf (Score:5, Informative)

    by king neckbeard ( 1801738 ) on Tuesday June 18, 2013 @01:14AM (#44036629)
    No, criticizing the government is one of the most important uses of free speech, but it extends far beyond that. The reason a NDA could be legally binding is because it's a contract with a private entity. However, it would still have to fall within the bounds of contract law. So, if the terms were unreasonable, such as no disclosure for 50 years, or there was a compelling public interest, like being asked via NDA to cover over up a crime, the contract would be invalid.
  • by Marrow ( 195242 ) on Tuesday June 18, 2013 @01:33AM (#44036705)

    Certain predators get triggered when you try to flee. Its better to say in a very soft voice "Am I free to go now officer" while backing away. Keep your hands away from your clothing and move slowly. Dont stare, because that can trigger an attack. Brightly colored garments or low hanging denim can incite an attack.
    Remember, if you are not inside your home with the door safely locked, you are in their territory. Be smart / Be safe.

  • Re:wtf (Score:5, Informative)

    by mikelieman ( 35628 ) on Tuesday June 18, 2013 @06:49AM (#44037627) Homepage

    When speaking to a police officer, there are only two things to say:

    (1) "Am I Under Arrest"

    Which will generate either a yes or no. Any answer other than "Yes" prompts the following question:

    (2) "Can I Go Now?"

    Which will generate either a yes or no. Any answer other than "Yes" prompts the following question:

    (1) "Am I Under Arrest"


The unfacts, did we have them, are too imprecisely few to warrant our certitude.