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Salinas v. Texas


Salinas voluntarily gave his shotgun to officers and accompanied the officers to the police station so the officers could question him about a murder. The officers did not advise Salinas of his Miranda rights, as he was not in custody. Salinas answered most of the interviewing officer’s questions; but, when the officer asked Salinas if his shotgun “would match the shells recovered at the scene of the murder,” Salinas did not reply. After a short period of silence, the officer asked Salinas other questions, which Salinas answered. Salinas did not testify at trial; however the prosecutor commented on Salinas’ failure to answer the officer’s question about the shotgun, arguing it was evidence of Salinas’ guilt.


Does the Fifth Amendment’s Self-Incrimination Clause protect a defendant’s refusal to answer questions asked by the government before he has been arrested or read his Miranda rights?


No. The privilege against self-incrimination generally is not self-executing; therefore, a witness who wants its protection needs to invoke it explicitly.


The Fifth Amendment does not establish a complete right to remain silent. The Fifth Amendment only guarantees a criminal defendant may not be compelled to testify against himself. Consequently, no Constitutional violation occurs as long as the government does not deprive a defendant of the opportunity to claim a Fifth Amendment privilege.


570 U.S. ___, 133 S. Ct. 2174 (2013)

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