The Corner

SCOTUS Issues New Miranda Decision

The Supreme Court this morning ruled that criminal suspects must explicitly tell police they want to remain silent to officially invoke their Miranda rights during questioning.

The case at hand, Berghuis v. Thompkins involved a shooting suspect, Thompkins, who tried to have an inculpatory statement made during interrogation thrown out on the grounds that he had not explicitly waived his right to remain silent. In a 5-4 decision, the Court ruled that

“Thompkins’ silence during the interrogation did not invoke his right to remain silent. A suspect’s Miranda right to counsel must be invoked “unambiguously. . . .” If the accused makes an “ambiguous or equivocal” statement or no statement, the police are not required to end the interrogation. . . or ask questions to clarify the accused’s intent. . . . Had Thompkins said that he wanted to remain silent or that he did not want to talk, he would have invoked his right to end the question-ing. He did neither.”

The Court further ruled that the act of knowingly and voluntarily making a statement to police constitutes a waiving of the right to remain silent.

The decision was a usual-suspects 5-4 split, with Justice Kennedy delivering the opinion of the Court, joined by Justices Scalia, Alito, and Thomas, along with Chief Justice Roberts. Justices Breyer, Ginsburg, Stevens, and Sotomayor dissented.

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