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Supreme Court Rules Suspects Must Tell Police They Wish To Remain Silent

The Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision Tuesday that suspects under interrogation must tell police that they wish to remain silent, as opposed to simply remaining silent.

Van Chester Thompkins challenged his murder conviction on the grounds that by remaining silent for most of his interrogation, he was invoking his right to remain silent. During his interrogation, he was read his list of rights as mandated by the Miranda Supreme Court ruling, but answered “yes” when a detective asked if he prayed for forgiveness for the shooting. He made the statement more than two hours into the interrogation.

The court reversed the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling and upheld a Michigan state court ruling that rejected Thompkins’ Miranda claim

You can read the decision in Berghuis v. Thompkins here.

In the opinion, written by Justice Anthony Kennedy and joined by Justices Roberts, Alito, Thomas and Scalia, the court ruled that by speaking to the police, Thompkins waived his Miranda right to remain silent.

“A suspect who has received and understood the Miranda warnings, and has not invoked his Miranda rights, waives the right to remain silent by making an uncoerced statement to the police. Thompkins did not invoke his right to remain silent and stop the questioning,” Kennedy wrote.

In her dissent, which was joined by Justices Breyer, Ginsburg and Stevens, Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote that a suspect would not know that they needed to speak in order to tell police they wanted to remain silent.

“Advising a suspect that he has a ‘right to remain silent’ is unlikely to convey that he must speak(and must do so in some particular fashion) to ensure the right will be protected,” Sotomayor wrote.

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