Via SCOTUSBlog we learn that, “The Supreme Court agreed on Friday to decide a major case on the right to remain silent — a case testing whether that right exists for an individual who has not been arrested but is interviewed by police, and was not given Miranda warnings, when that silence was used to help prove guilt at a trial. That case — Salinas v. Texas (docket 12-246) — was one of six new cases accepted for review.” Here’s a link (pdf) to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals decision being challenged.
The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution states, “No person … shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.” The Court of Criminal Appeals acknowledged that, “The Supreme Court has held that a defendant’s Fifth Amendment right against compelled self-incrimination is violated if the State is allowed to impeach the defendant’s testimony by using his post-arrest, post-Miranda silence.” But in Salinas they ruled that pre-arrest silence could be used for impeachment purposes.
The rationale of the decision below would allow for an even higher level of coercion. Suppose the officer continues, “Joe, you don’t have to answer my questions, but if you don’t, then that’s going to be used as evidence that you’re guilty. The prosecutor is going to stand in front of that jury and tell them that an innocent man would answer my questions. So you don’t need to talk to your lawyer, you need to answer my questions right now.”