Use of Defendant’s Silence at Trial

By November 5, 2014 March 3rd, 2017 blog post

Defendant’s Silence at Trial

Bill_of_RightsIn Salinas v Texas, a recent United States Supreme Court case, the court decided that the use at trial of the defendant’s silence during an interview when he was not in custody did not violate the Fifth Amendment.  In this case, the Defendant was not in custody and had not been given his Miranda warnings, but voluntarily answered a police officer’s questions about a murder. The defendant did not answer questions when he was asked if his shotgun would match the shells recovered at the murder scene. He instead looked at the ground, shuffled his feet, bit his lip and otherwise appeared nervous. When the officer asked additional questions, the defendant answered them.

At trial the prosecutor argued that the defendant’s reaction to the officer’s questions suggested he was guilty of the murder. The defendant was convicted. On appeal, the defendant argued that use of his silence was a violation of the Fifth Amendment and his Motion to Suppress should have been granted.

The Court concluded that the defendant’s claim failed because he did not expressly invoke the privilege in response to the officer’s question and no exception applied to excuse his failure to invoke the privilege.


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