The Supreme Court recently issued an opinion in a Texas murder case that has broad implications for any corporate representative or employee who seeks to invoke his or her Fifth Amendment Right against self-incrimination in the course of a government investigation.
In the Salinas v. Texas case, defendant Genovevo Salinas had voluntarily accompanied police officers to the police station to answer questions about a double homicide. Since he was not under arrest and free to leave at any point, Salinas was not issued a Miranda warning. Salinas voluntarily answered some of the officer’s questions, but when asked whether shotgun casings found at the scene belonged to his gun, Salinas said nothing and, according to the police testimony at trial, shifted nervously in his seat. At his subsequent trial, prosecutors used the fact that Salinas had stood silent and since he did not answer that question it was evidence of his guilt. Salinas’ attorney argued that such evidence was inadmissible because Salinas’s silence and refusal to answer the questions was, effectively, an invocation of his Fifth Amendment privilege. The trial court disagreed and Salinas was subsequently convicted and sentenced to 20 years in prison.
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