So, recently there was a very important ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in case that will have far reaching implications for those facing hiring this Wake County Criminal Defense Attorney, as well as the rest of the country. The case in questions, Salinas V. Texas, deals with an individual being questioned by police regarding a homicide. The Defendant in this case was answering questions by the police but elected not to answer one specific question. As a result, his silence was used to convicted him of murder.
In this particular case, Mr. Salinas was being questioned by the police, but was not yet in custody. This is a very important detail due to the fact that had he been in custody, the police would have been required to read him his ‘Miranda Warning’ prior to questioning him, otherwise his responses, or lack there of, would be inadmissible.
Now, ‘Miranda’ can be a bit confusing as most people’s understanding of this right derives from what they have seen on Law and Order, and that’s not accurate. It is very common for those hiring this Raleigh DWI Attorney and Criminal Attorney to think their case is solid because they were not ‘Mirandized’ but that is just not the case. First, your right to remain silent and your right to have an attorney present for any question is in place regardless of when you are dealing with the police and whether you are in custody or not. Most people do not realize that they are completely within their right to refuse to answer any questions by the police. The second, and often times more confusing, issue with Miranda is exactly WHEN the police are required to inform you of your rights. Even though TV cops always ‘Mirandize’ Defendants the second they take them into custody, the reality is, that is not required and not often practiced. The point that police are required to inform you of your Miranda rights is when you are in custody AND you are being questioned by police. I’m certain it would seem that just out of convenience, police would simply ‘Mirandize’ the Defendant when they are being arrested and then they can question them once the Defendant decides whether to invoke those rights or not. The reality is, unfortunately, much more sinister.
Since people believe that, if they are being taken into custody, and have not been Mirandized, that they are safe. At a minimum, most people believe that their statements can’t be used, or worse that their whole arrest will be thrown out. Actually, not only will your case not be dismissed because you weren’t given your Miranda rights when being arrested, but any ‘spontaneous statements’ you made after your arrest are admissible in court. ‘Spontaneous statements’ are things Defendants say, after being taken into custody but without any questioning by the police. Most of the time, these are things said by the Defendant in the back of the cruiser. What’s even worse, police know that most people have these misconceptions, and so they intentionally won’t ‘Mirandize’ the Defendant, not ask them any questions, and record anything they say while in custody.
This brings us full circle to the ruling in Salinas v. Texas. The Supreme Court has ruled that a Defendant’s refusal to answer a question can be used in their trial as evidence against them. Now, in Salinas’ case, it was a ‘significant silence’ in that he had been answering the questions of the police, except for one question dealing specifically with shell casing at his residence. However, the fact that the court ruled the silence is admissible as evidence can have far reaching impacts in other cases. The State may attempt to argue that any refusal to answer questions is evidence of a guilty conscious, though any defense attorney (including this Raleigh Criminal Defense Attorney) has argued that invoking the right to remain silent is evidences of a guilty conscious, rather it’s simply a citizen enjoying the benefit of their Constitutional Rights. From there, what the sitting Judge may do with this objection given the ruling in Salinas is hard to say.
Regardless, what is most important to take away from this recent ruling is 1. invoke your right to remain silent and to have legal representation early and without hesitation and 2. hire a capable defense attorney to represent your interest there after.