Remaining silent could help land you in jail

You have the right to remain silent, and be found guilty

Everyone who has ever watched COPS or sat through a Law & Order marathon on a holiday knows that if they ever end up on the wrong side of the law, they have the right to remain silent.

That’s true.

But thanks to the conservative legal minds on the U.S. Supreme Court, remaining silent could help land you in jail.

If you are arrested, officers still have to read you your Miranda rights that remind you of your right to remain silent and your right to a lawyer even if you can’t afford one.

But the Supreme Court ruled this week that if a suspect is not under arrest, prosecutors can use the fact that he refused to answer questions against him in court.

The ruling confirms a decision from a Texas appellate court that upheld a man’s conviction despite the fact that a prosecutor told the jury that his refusal to answer questions implied that he was, in fact, guilty.

There were no witnesses to the double murder of two brothers in 1992 in the Houston area. But investigators found Genovevo Salinas to be as good a suspect as they had.

To their benefit, Salinas voluntarily accompanied detectives to the station to discuss the case. He was never arrested.

He was doing well under questioning and even gave them his shotgun to test. But when the detectives asked what the ballistics report would say, Salinas decided not to say anything.

Salinas disappeared after being questioned. He didn’t surface again for 15 years when he was found living under an assumed name.

At his trial, the prosecutor argued that an innocent person would have answered the question. He said that by remaining silent, Salinas had indicated his own guilt.

If he were under arrest, he would have had an implicit right to remain silent. But since he went to the station on his own, the court ruled that his silence could be used against him.

The justices in the majority said Salinas would have had to specifically invoke his right to remain silent to have it. So if he didn’t quote the Miranda V. Arizona court case or claim the Fifth Amendment, he doesn’t have the right to remain silent – at least not without consequences.

This is the only Amendment that now comes with a Civics exam in order for it to apply to citizens.

The ruling is ridiculous.

It seems to be a ruling in favor of the police and prosecutors but it really isn’t. It is a ruling against every citizen of the United States.

There will likely be a chilling effect where suspects and witnesses refuse to speak to authorities without an arrest warrant. After all, if you invoke your rights improperly, you might be found guilty merely because you “seem” guilty.

I like catching bad guys as much as anyone. I like the idea that criminals – especially violent criminals – are sitting in a jail cell instead of snooping around my house.

But I don’t like the idea that someone seems guilty. There is a reason we make it hard for the prosecutors to win.

“It is better for ten guilty men to escape than for one innocent man to suffer,” is a famous Sir William Blackstone quote that is the basis of many of the rights we enjoy as Americans.

This ruling allows a much better opportunity to jail an innocent person than those that existed before. It is a dangerous precedent and another step in the wrong direction.