You Must Directly Assert Right to Remain Silent

You must now clearly assert your right to remain silent in Florida if the police read you the Miranda Rights. A recent U.S. Supreme Court case, Berghuis v. Thompkins, upheld the murder conviction of a defendant who did not verbally assert his right to remain silent to law enforcement. The ruling was 4-5 and the high court found that a suspect must explicitly state to police officers that he is asserting his Miranda Rights.

Miranda rights are constitutional rights, and commonly known as the right to remain silent and the right to talk to a lawyer before answering any questions. They come into play when a criminal suspect is taken under arrest. The issue in this case was whether the defendant waived his Miranda rights when he did not explicitly assert them to the police.

The high court found that he did. The facts of the case arose from a shooting that took place outside a mall in Southfield, Michigan, where a young man was killed. The murder suspect, Van Chester Thompkins, fled the scene of the crime but was later arrested in Ohio. Upon Thompkins arrest, the police entered into a three-hour interrogation and forced Thompkins to read out loud from a copy of constitutional rights from the original Miranda Supreme Court case from 1966. These constitutional rights included the notice that anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law, and the right to decide at any time before or during questioning to use your right to remain silent. Thompkins was silent during most of the interrogation. He refused to sign the constitutional rights form and it was disputed whether he understood them and whether he confirmed his understanding. Thompkins later implicated himself in the mall shooting. When asked if he believed in God, he responded in the affirmative. Referring to the mall shooting victim, the officers continued, Do you pray to God to forgive you for shooting that boy down Thompkins answered Yes. He refused to sign a written confession but was ultimately convicted of first-degree murder, among other crimes. Justice Anthony

Kennedy was responsible for drafting the majority opinion and he concluded that had Thompkins stated he wanted to remain silent or he did not want to speak to the police, he would have invoked his right to stop the officers questioning. Because Thompkins did not make these explicit statements, he failed to invoke his right to remain silent. Joining the majority opinion were Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Chief Justice John Roberts.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor drafted the dissent and characterized the decision as a major retreat from constitutional protection from self-incrimination. By requiring criminal suspects to affirmatively speak, the Thompkins ruling turns Miranda upside down. Justices John Paul Stevens, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer supported Sotomayor’s dissent.

If you asserted your right to remain silent during a police interview and you believe your rights were violated then call us for a free consultation. Let our team work to protect your rights. The St. Petersburg criminal defense lawyers at the Rooth Law Group will fight your Pinellas criminal charges and put together your best defense to the allegations. Call today (727) 797-9600 in Pinellas County, (813) 333-6517 in Hillsborough County.

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