Case Brief

Name. Salinas v. Texas. 133 S. Ct. 2174

Facts.

Two people have been found killed in their house. The police discovered shotgun shell casings and started the investigation. Eventually it found the defendant. The latter handed his weapon to be checked through the ballistic testing. The defendant was questioned at the police station. Miranda rights were not informed to the defendant as the interrogation was not considered to be custodial and lasted less than one hour.

During the interview the defendant gave answers for the majority of the questions put. However, he kept silent as to the shells discovered by the police and their chances for matching with the shotgun he owned. After that police officer asked a few questions and the interview was over. The defendant did not testify at trial and his silence was considered as the evidence proving his guilt.

Procedural history.

The defendant was found guilty of murdering two people. The Texas State Court of Appeals and the Court of Criminal appeal reaffirmed the decisions of the lower court. The defendant's arguments regarding the misuse of his silence were not considered by the courts.

Issue.

Does the assumption that defendant's silence proves his guilt violate the Fifth Amendment taking into consideration that the defendant has not been informed of his Miranda rights, have not been in custody and have not benefited from his rights ensured by the Fifth Amendment?

Rule of law.

The Fifth Amendment provides a right for the person to remain silent in regard to the issues that could be self-incriminating. The requirements set by the numerous judicial precedents provide that the person who desires protection against self-incrimination has to explicitly claim it.

It was held that in order to benefit from the provision of the Fifth Amendment a witness has to expressly state that he is willing to benefit from the right provided by the Fifth Amendment against the self-incrimination.

Rationale.

The court held that exceptions to the invocation requirement were not applicable in the case. It asserted that the defendant could not have been forced to expressly state his privilege to remain silent in order to prevent himself from self-incrimination. Additionally, the requirement might be applicable only in case the government coercion has led to the situation when the defendant's forfeiture of privileges was involuntary. The conversation that occurred at the police station was voluntary. The defendant admitted that the police officers did not hold him back and that he was free to leave at any moment he considered appropriate.

Furthermore, the court refused to apply the third requirement which provided that the defendant had to expressly invoke his disagreement to answer. However, the judges noted that the Fifth Amendment protects the defendant and provides him with the right of remaining silent in order to prevent self-incrimination. Thus, without the express invocation, the silence of the defendant could be judged differently.

One of the judges, however, admitted that no formula is to be followed to invoke the privilege. The judge also noted that there was a need to weight the circumstances of the case solely. The judge asserted that the individual should not expressly invoke the privilege as the interrogations were carried out in context of criminal investigation. The police made it clear that the interviewee should consider himself as a suspect.

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