Supreme Court ruling on 5th Amendment puts you at even more risk

The Supreme Court recently ruled in Salinas v. Texas that your silence can be used against you.

As you probably know, once you are arrested, the police are required to read you the Miranda warning which advises you of your 5th Amendment rights: You have the right to remain silent, anything you say or do may be used against you in a court of law, and so on.

This case asked the question, what about remaining silent before you are arrested? The defendant, Salinas, had not been under arrest when police started questioning him. At some point in the questioning, he just stopped talking.

The Supreme Court said that since Salinas had not invoked his Fifth Amendment protections, the police could use his silence against him. We think this is a bad ruling.

In his dissenting opinion, Justice Stephen Breyer says this:

I would hold that Salinas need not have expressly invoked the Fifth Amendment. The context was that of a criminal investigation. Police told Salinas that and made clear that he was a suspect. His interrogation took place at the police station. Salinas was not represented by counsel. The relevant question—about whether the shotgun from Salinas’ home would incriminate him—amounted to a switch in subject matter. And it was obvious that the new question sought to ferret out whether Salinas was guilty of murder.

We agree. As citizens, we should not be required to invoke a right in order to enjoy its protection. But regardless of what we think, the ruling is what it is. And it’s just one more reason to know your rights and exercise them intelligently.

You can invoke the 5th Amendment at any time and should do so, even before arrested.