Is Silence Evidence of Guilt?
The most commonly repeated phrase in police drama television shows or movies from police officers prior to or after affecting an arrest is “you have the right to remain silent. These statements are part of the “Miranda Rights or Warnings” which derives from the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution that protects an individual against self-incrimination which reads: “nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law” Recently, in Salinas v. Texas, the Court determined the contrary.
In my opinion, it isn't. I've never been arrested or questioned by the police, but I think there would be times I'd keep my mouth shut. If I thought that anything I say might get twisted and taken as either a lie or sound as if I'm admitting to something I didn't do, I'd definitely wait until I had a lawyer present.
No, silence is oftentimes better than sticking one's foot into their mouth. Most common people have no idea of how the legal system works. If one says anything that can be misinterpreted and then later they try to clarify what they said they're likely to find themselves on a slippery slope.
Innocent people have been known to confess to crimes they did NOT commit just to have an interrogation end. Answering one question can lead to 4 hours or more of additional questioning.
Having an attorney go over one's statement is equivalent to having a consultation with your doctor prior to electing to have surgery. Getting professional advice is always a good idea when something major is on the line.
In a technical legal sense they may be correct, but, to me, it certainly violates the spirit of the Fifth Amendment and the protections against self-incrimination.
The whole notion of silence meaning guilt I have always thought to be stupid. Silence can be for many reasons: respect for the process or simple privacy, for example. The reason for the silence isn't known. That's the point.
Unfortunately, the moral of the story in this case would seem to be to not talk to cops. Ever. None of us are served well by that.
The new Miranda rights: "You have the right to remain silent (but only if you don't remain silent and specifically say so (and your silence or non-silence may be used against you so it doesn't really matter anyway))..."
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