Police in Houston, Texas questioned Genovevo Salinas in 1992 during a murder investigation. Salinas answered all of their questions until the police asked whether he thought that casings found at the murder scene would match the shotgun the police found in his house. In response, Salinas remained silent. Later, he was charged with murder, tried, and convicted partially on the basis of evidence that he had remained silent during police questioning before he was arrested and given his Miranda warnings. Salinas claims that the Texas trial court should not have admitted evidence of his silence because of the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination. He argues that allowing evidence of his silence would violate the Fifth Amendment by forcing him to speak or have his silence used against him. The State of Texas argues that the evidence was appropriately admitted and outside the protection of Fifth Amendment privilege because Salinas’s silence was non-testimonial and the police questioning was non-coercive. The Supreme Court’s decision will determine the scope of the Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination and, more specifically, whether it extends to the protection of a defendant’s pre-arrest, pre-Miranda statements to the police.
Whether or under what circumstances the Fifth Amendment’s Self-Incrimination Clause protects a defendant’s refusal to answer law enforcement questioning before he has been arrested or read his Miranda rights.
Do prosecutors violate an accused criminal’s Fifth Amendment’s right against forced self-incrimination when they use evidence of his silence against him even when the evidence comes from questioning conducted before he was taken into police custody?
- Adam Liptak, Justices to Hear Cases on Groups’ Free Speech (Jan. 12, 2013)
- Warren Richey, Can Police Use Your Silence Against You? Supreme Court to Decide (Jan. 11, 2013)