The US Supreme Court issued an important, yet highly-divided opinion for criminal law and criminal appeals attorneys today. In Salinas v. Texas, No. 12-246, the Court held that prosecutors can use a person’s pre-arrest silence to questions posed by police as evidence of guilt. According to the opinion, since Salinas was not in custody at the time he voluntarily accompanied the police to the station, and because he did not affirmatively invoke the 5th Amendment privilege against self incrimination, his silence to some of the questions posed by police before his arrest could be used against him at trial.
The majority opinion, which was concisely written and is a mere 12 pages long, was written by Justice Alito, and joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Kennedy. Justices Thomas and Scalia filed concurring opinions, which are equally, if not more concise than the majority opinion. But, as is so often the case, I find the dissent most persuasive. As noted by Justices Breyer, Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan, the mere fact that Salinas did not expressly invoke his 5th Amendment privilege is not necessarily controlling. Rather, as noted by the dissent, the question should be whether, given all the facts and circumstances of the case, it can be inferred that the individual has invoked his or her constitutional rights? See Salinas, slip. op., pg. 12 (Breyer, J., dissenting).
The takeaway from this case: in order to invoke your constitutional rights, you better speak up, because remaining mute is not enough. To read more about this case on SCOTUSblog, click here.
In Florida news, the Court in the Zimmerman trial has apparently ruled that the jurors will be sequestered. With all the press coverage of this case, I hope that the defense team is able to somehow pick a fair and impartial jury, and avoid the mess that occurred in the John Goodman case. See my previous post on the Goodman case here.