Raleigh Criminal Attorney M. Moseley Matheson Discusses the Recent U.S. Supreme Court Ruling Regarding a Defendant's Silence as was Reported in the USA Today

Share Article

Wake County Criminal Defense Attorney Matheson discusses the impact of the recent ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in the Case of Salinas v. Texas.

Raleigh Criminal Lawyer

Raleigh Criminal Attorney M. Moseley Matheson

A Defendant who wishes to remain silent for all or part of their questioning may then have that silence used against them as if their attempt to invoke a right to remain silent can be inferred to be a guilty conscious

For anyone who has ever been stopped by the police, whether it was a traffic stop or simply walking up to you on the street, there is an inherent desire to answer their questions truthfully and quickly to hopefully seem compliant with the police officer. Additionally, most people in America are aware of the Miranda Warning and most can recite them after having seen it done numerous times on television crime dramas. Where people get confused with these concepts is exactly what their rights are and when they apply. Whether a Defendant is facing DWI Charges in Raleigh, NC or Murder charges in Austin,TX, these rights are consistent in their application. As was reported June 17, 2013 by USA Today, It is this specific issue which is at issue in the recent Supreme Court case of Salinas v. Texas(570 U.S. ____ (2013)).

The Miranda Rights derive from a Supreme Court case called Miranda v. Arizona (384 U.S. 486 (1966)). This case dealt with a Defendant who was being questioned while in custody and whether his statements could be used against him in court without first being informed of his right to remain silent. This case established the 'Miranda Warning' which a Police Officer is suppose to recite to a Defendant prior to questioning. The Miranda Warning is: "You have the right to remain silent, anything you say may and can be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney, if you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided to you." Specifically, these rights are suppose to be explained to a Defendant who is in custody AND is being questioned.

Where many people make a mistake in the understanding of the Miranda Rights is when exactly the Defendant is required to be informed of them. A common misconception is, at the time of arrest you are required to be 'Mirandized' (again, as that is how it happens on TV). The reality is, until the Defendant is actually in custody, and the Defendant is being questioned by the police, there is no requirement that the Miranda Warning be given. This means that any spontaneous statement made by the Defendant while in custody is admissible in court, so long as it was not triggered as a result of being questioned by the police.

"In my practice, I find myself often trying to explain to clients that, not only are their statements admissible when they believed they were not, but that Police intentionally do not 'Mirandize' Defendants when taking them in to custody in order to use spontaneous statements against them." Raleigh DUI Attorney M. Moseley Matheson stated. "Many people are shocked to learn that the admission they made while talking to an officer before an arrest, or spontaneous statements made after arrest can both be used against them in court. Many of my clients facing a Wake County DWI Charge have had their case hinge on statements made, and when exactly they were made."

The timing of the Miranda Warning is very important to the recent case of Salinas v. Texas. As was reported by USA Today, the Defendant in this case was not in custody. The Defendant had not been 'Mirandized' since he was not yet in custody, even though he was being questioned by the police. The Defendant was freely answering the questions of the Police Officers until there was one question the Defendant decided not to answer. The fact that the Defendant did not answer the question was used in the case against him in order to convict him of Murder. The obvious inference from his situation was that his silence was indicative of someone hiding the truth to the question.

The USA Today article explains that Supreme Court narrowly ruled that the silence of the Defendant during question is admissible as he did not actively invoke his right to counsel or to remain silent, which would have ceased the questioning. Though this case does not specifically address a situation where a 'Miranda Warning' was required, the rights to remain silent and to counsel were still in place.

"The case of Salinas v. Texas can have far reaching implications into Miranda cases as it seems to establish that if a Defendant does not actively invoke his rights to remain silent, they are not enforceable. Of course, to actively invoke that right, the Defendant would have to speak up, hence not remaining silent in the first place." Raleigh Criminal Attorney M. Moseley Matheson stated. "This ruling will have very serious consequences for citizens being questioned by police. A Defendant who wishes to remain silent for all or part of their questioning may then have that silence used against them as if their attempt to invoke a right to remain silent can be inferred to be a guilty conscious."

If you are facing a Wake County DWI charge or criminal charge, contact the Matheson Law Office for a free consultation at 919-335-5291. They will perform a full case evaluation and explain what your rights are and what you can expect with your case.

Share article on social media or email:

View article via:

Pdf Print

Contact Author

Moseley Matheson
Follow us on
Visit website