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Speak Up for Your Right to Remain Silent? Supreme Court Rules on Miranda Rights

In its third Miranda ruling this session, the Supreme Court ruled today that a suspect must “unambiguously” state his or her desire to invoke their Miranda rights (referring to the right to remain silent in this case) in order for those rights to be protected.

This case came to the Supreme Court after the lower courts conflicted on whether a confessional statement from a suspect, who remained mostly silent throughout a three plus hour police investigation, was valid in court.

Specifically, in this case, the suspect, Van Chester Thompkins, offered little verbal response throughout his interrogation, but three hours into his interrogation, he implicated himself in the crime by giving an affirmative answer to one of the officer’s questions. He later tried to revoke his confessional statement by stating that he was using his right to remain silent, hence why he was so quiet throughout the rest of the interrogation.

“Mr. Thompkins remained almost entirely silent in the face of three hours of interrogation, though he did say that his chair was hard and that he did not want a peppermint. After two hours and 45 minutes of questioning, Mr. Thompkins said yes in response to each of three questions: ‘Do you believe in God?’ ‘Do you pray to God?’ And, crucially, ‘Do you pray to God to forgive you for shooting that boy down?’ His affirmative response to the last question was used against him at trial, and he was convicted of first-degree murder.”

The 5-4 ruling found that remaining silent is not enough to invoke one’s right to remain silent, and that use of that right must be explicitly indicated by the suspect. Justices Sonia Sotomayer, John Paul Stevens, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer dissented. Elena Kagan, who has been nominated by President Barack Obama to join the court, sided with the majority as U.S. solicitor general.

In her dissent, Sotomayer stated, “Criminal suspects must now unambiguously invoke their right to remain silent — which counterintuitively requires them to speak. 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.” She further stated the majority’s decision ”turns Miranda upside down.”

So, with the second controversial Supreme Court decision within the last week, what are your thoughts on this? Is the “speak up to remain silent” ruling an accurate representation of the Miranda rights? Or, does explicitly requesting the right to remain silent refute the purpose of the right? I look forward to reading your comments on this subject.

Speak Up for Your Right to Remain Silent? Supreme Court Rules on Miranda Rights

Kelly McAleer, Psy.D.

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APA Reference
McAleer, K. (2010). Speak Up for Your Right to Remain Silent? Supreme Court Rules on Miranda Rights. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 23, 2020, from


Last updated: 1 Jun 2010
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