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Right to remain silent restricted by Supreme Court

The U.S. Supreme Court has been in the news a lot recently, so one of their rulings has likely flown under the radar of many Pittsburgh residents. SCOTUS had to make a decision on a criminal’s right to remain silent — specifically, whether the right applies to someone before they are arrested. The Fifth Amendment protects a suspect from incriminating himself or herself; and in the context of a trial, or immediately after a person is arrested, this right to remain silent can be invoked. But what about prior to any formal arrest? The Supreme Court decided that, no, the right to remain silent does not extend that far. That means if a suspect is brought in for questioning, and he or she remains silent, that silence can be used against them at trial. The prosecutors can point to that silence and begin to question why they wouldn’t answer questions — implying that the individual may be guilty. It is a significant ruling in the criminal defense world, which puts some defendants in a position where they will incriminate themselves no matter what. Silence could incriminate them; talking could incriminate them. What is important to remember here — for anyone who is arrested or even just brought in for questioning — is to explicitly invoke your right to remain silent, no matter what. While the ruling is a blow to defendants, letting the police know you are acknowledging your right and invoking it is still important. It could not only help prevent you from incriminating yourself, but it could also stop the case from proceeding further. Source: New York Times, “A 5-4 Ruling, One of Three, Limits Silence’s Protection,” Adam Liptak, June 17, 2013

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