Another Reason To Talk To A Good Defense Lawyer Before Talking To The Police

The United States Supreme Court issued a new opinion on Monday making it more difficult for citizens to assert their 5th amendment when talking to the police. The Supreme Court decided that when a person voluntarily talks with police prior to arrest, merely remaining silent in response to a question is NOT an assertion of the Fifth Amendment right to remain silent. For that reason the Court allows the silence to be used against the citizen if they are put on trial. This ruling increases the importance of seeking legal representation before speaking to the police.

In this new case, the Court has created a confusing rule: a citizen can only assert his or her right to remain silent by speaking. Remaining silent is not the same as asserting the right to remain silent. Furthermore, the new decision allows the prosecution to punish use of the right to remain silent. If a citizen's response to police questions is to simply remain silent, the prosecutor will be able to argue at trial that the refusal to answer a question demonstrates guilt. The full decision, Salinas v. Texas, is available for reading online.

Court decisions like this demonstrate why it is so important to speak to a good criminal defense lawyer before talking with the police about any allegations of criminal conduct. Whether a citizen is guilty or innocent, cases like Salinas create traps which unfairly put the citizen at a disadvantage. Without proper counsel, the citizen may give the police seemingly innocent information, such as silence, which will be used by the prosecution at trial.