Supreme Court Rules On Right To Remain Silent In Case Involving Shotgun

Supreme Court Rules On Right To Remain Silent In Case Involving Shotgun

Remaining silent prior to arrest can, in some circumstances, be used against you in court, as the U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled. As Adam Liptak reports for the New York Times, the Court ruled (in a 5-4 split) in favor of allowing a prosecutor to comment on a suspect’s silence when it came to a certain question raised by the cops.

The question involved a shotgun, and whether or not the suspect believed his shotgun would match up to shells found at the crime scene. Two people had been shot and killed, and later on, the suspect would be charged with murder and ultimately convicted.

Because the suspect allowed himself to be questioned by the police for roughly an hour, did not invoke his right to silence, and yet refused to answer that one question about his shotgun, the Court said that his remaining silent on that one question could be used against him.

Justice Stephen Breyer dissented: “[Allowing] a prosecutor to comment on a defendant’s constitutionally protected silence would put that defendant in an impossible predicament.” In other words, at the time he answered questions while a suspect but before arrest, the defendant had a choice between incriminating himself by answering questions and incriminating himself by refusing to answer questions.

Source: A 5-4 Ruling, One of Three, Limits Silence’s Protection

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