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High Court: Speak Up If You Want To Remain Silent

Publication Date: 
June 01, 2010
National Public Radio (NPR)
Nina Totenberg

Professor Pamela Karlan and Robert Weisberg are quoted on the Supreme Court's decision that now requires a suspect to clearly state he or she wants to remain silent to invoke Miranda rights. Nina Totenberg of National Public Radio filed this story:

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday has given police greater latitude in questioning suspects, cutting back yet again on its famous Miranda decision.

By a 5-to-4 vote, the high court ruled that a properly warned suspect who remains largely silent for hours of questioning has not invoked his right to remain silent and that even a one- or two-word answer to a single question can be used against him at trial.

In the decades since Miranda, the Supreme Court has ruled that if you don't explicitly ask for a lawyer, you can be questioned without an attorney present. Now, the court has said that if you don't explicitly invoke your right to remain silent, the cops can keep asking you questions, too, even if you remain silent for hours.


Stanford Law professor Pam Karlan, on the liberal side of the spectrum, wonders, what is the cutoff? What if somebody is questioned for "12 hours, or 14 hours while they resolutely say nothing" until they eventually "just get worn down"?

Stanford Law professor Robert Weisberg, who lectures law enforcement officers about criminal law, says that Miranda put the burden on law enforcement to show that a suspect had been informed of and waived his rights. After Tuesday's decision, he says, "The burden is now the other way — virtually anything a defendant says at any point during any kind of interrogation in response to any kind of question is going to constitute a waiver of his right to silence."