U.S. Supreme Court Miranda Ruling: Suspects Must Speak Up

Jun 2, 2010

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court ruled that a suspect’s silence can be used against them in court—unless they speak up and explicitly say otherwise. In a 5-4 decision, the court determined that in order for people to invoke their Miranda rights—the right to a lawyer, to remain silent, etc.—they have to tell the arresting police officer that they’re doing so. The case in question involved a Michigan man, Van Thompkins, who was arrested for murder in 2000. Thompkins kept quiet during a nearly three-hour police interrogation, then answered “yes” to the question “do you pray to God to forgive you for shooting that boy down?” Thompkins argued that he had invoked his Miranda rights to remain silent by actually remaining silent, but he was eventually convicted of murder in 2001.The conviction was overturned after the 6th Circuit appeals court agreed with him, but today’s ruling reinstates his conviction and forces suspect to inform police if they want to invoke their Miranda rights. Writing for the opposition, Justice Sonia Sotomayor argued that the ruling “turns Miranda upside down.” “Criminal suspects must now unambiguously invoke their right to remain silent— which counterintuitively, requires them to speak,” Sotomayor wrote. ”At the same time, suspects will be legally presumed to have waived their rights even if they have given no clear expression of their intent to do so.”

The case is Berghuis v. Thompkins, 08-1470.