You have the right to remain silent, but you have to speak up

    A U.S. Supreme Court ruling this week could have implications in Philadelphia.

    A U.S. Supreme Court ruling this week could have implications in Philadelphia. The Court decided that suspects interrogated by police must expressly invoke the right to remain silent.

    The Court’s decision came in a case where Michigan police warned a suspect of his right to remain silent or obtain a lawyer – also known as the Miranda warning.

    It’s unclear whether the suspect fully understood his rights – he remained silent during the initial questioning. Later, after hours of interrogation, he responded to police questioning, incriminating himself.

    University of Pennsylvania Law School professor and civil rights lawyer David Rudovsky says the ruling is troubling.

    “Clearly, what went on when the police continued to question him was to give him the message that his invocation of silence meant nothing to them,” says Rudovsky, “that they were going to continue to question him regardless of his assertion of silence. And that’s exactly what Miranda said you can’t do. We don’t want the police badgering suspects after they’ve decided to invoke their rights to silence or to ask for an attorney.”

    The head of the law division at Philadelphia’s D.A.’s Office, Ronald Eisenberg, says he doesn’t expect a lot of cases to be directly affected by this decision at this time.

    “There will be perhaps a few cases where there might be a dispute about whether the defendant is willing to give up his rights or not,” says Eisenberg. “In the vast majority of cases, the defendant simply says ‘No, I don’t want to speak with you. Now that you’ve read me my warnings, I’m invoking them.’ And that’s the end of the questioning. In most cases there is not a statement.”

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