Supreme Court Makes Historic Change to Miranda Rights


supreme-courtThe Supreme Court ruled today that suspects must explicitly tell police they want to be silent to invoke Miranda protections during criminal interrogations, a decision one dissenting justice said turns defendants’ rights “upside down.”A right to remain silent and a right to a lawyer are the first of the Miranda rights warnings, which police recite to suspects during arrests and interrogations. But the justices said in a 5-4 decision that suspects must tell police they are going to remain silent to stop an interrogation, just as they must tell police that they want a lawyer.

The ruling comes in a case where a suspect, Van Chester Thompkins, remained mostly silent for a three-hour police interrogation before implicating himself in a Jan. 10, 2000, murder in Southfield, Mich. He appealed his conviction, saying that he invoked his Miranda right to remain silent by remaining silent.

But Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing the decision for the court’s conservatives, said that wasn’t enough.

“Thompkins did not say that he wanted to remain silent or that he did not want to talk to police,” Kennedy said. “Had he made either of these simple, unambiguous statements, he would have invoked his ‘right to cut off questioning.’ Here he did neither, so he did not invoke his right to remain silent.”

Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the court’s newest member, wrote a strongly worded dissent for the court’s liberals, saying the majority’s decision “turns Miranda upside down.”

“Criminal suspects must now unambiguously invoke their right to remain silent – which counterintuitively, requires them to speak,” she said. “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. Those results, in my view, find no basis in Miranda or our subsequent cases and are inconsistent with the fair-trial principles on which those precedents are grounded.”

Van Chester Thompkins was arrested for murder in 2001 and interrogated by police for three hours. At the beginning, Thompkins was read his Miranda rights and said he understood.

The officers in the room said Thompkins said little during the interrogation, occasionally answering “yes,” “no,” “I don’t know,” nodding his head and making eye contact as his responses. But when one of the officers asked him if he prayed for forgiveness for “shooting that boy down,” Thompkins said, “Yes.”

He was convicted, but on appeal he wanted that statement thrown out because he said he invoked his Miranda rights by being uncommunicative with the interrogating officers.

The Cincinnati-based appeals court agreed and threw out his confession and conviction. The high court reversed that decision.

{CBS Chicago/Noam Newscenter}


  1. Getting a lawyer is a positive action.
    Remaining silent, however is passive. If it’s a right, then it should follow that merely remaining silent is essentially using that right. I can’t understand how you must make a positive action; speaking, to show the police that you wish to use your right.
    in this case I agree with the minority opinion that remaining silent suffices your need to affirm that you are using your right.

  2. I guess Sotomayer is more concernd about about a murderers “right” to kill than our right to have a safer society..

  3. This is a poor case to cite changes to Miranda rules. First, the murderer did not remain silent. He answered some questions, which negated any legal basis of remaining silent. Secondly, from personal experience in using Miranda warnings, the final question was always ‘Do you wish to talk with us/me now’. At that point, the suspect either cooperates or asks for a lawyer. Becuase the murderer in this case niether asked for a lawyer or failed to remain silent, he did not involk his rights at all. The court has made the right decision. Having said that, I do beleive that the Miranda warning should reflect that a statement should be made by the suspect as to his/her intentions.

  4. Yet another assault on the rights of the individual I don’t particularly want a criminal/murderer walking the streets and with today’s advanced technology he most probably could have been convicted without his own testimony being used. I believe the correct decision should have been to through out the appeal dew to the accused testimony during interrogation he was warned that any thing he said would be held against him… which means Yes, No, I don’t know, “any thing” then he was told that he had the right to an attorney ‘He didn’t ask for one?’ the reason that the rights are given in that order is obvious. This was the perfect opportunity to diminish personal rights, in a country that once prided itself on an individuals right, in order to propitiate the socialistic agenda and mentality which we The American Public has bought into hook, line, and sinker .

  5. Actually this is not taking away individual rights. It’s putting the responsibility back into the people’s hands where it belongs in the first place. We all learn in school that “We Cannot Be Forced To Implicate OurSelves” in the 5th Amendment. It’s our jobs to know our rights-having to be told like a child means we NEED Big Government to tell us what is what. It’s time we grew up.

  6. Living in a more conservative society will eventually eat away at the very Constitution our country was founded upon. Power corrupts and existing in what will eventually become a “Police State”, is a real possibility.

  7. For all of you dogging Justice Sotomayer saying they care more about the rights of murders. just think like it this way. they made for everyone not just murders and people like that. Justice Sotomayer is right. this is redundant that if you wish to remain silent you have to say it. what if you were in that position. and this change isn’t the one i would be worried about. it is the other too i would worry about there more serious and if you don’t know them you can get screwed over big time.