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“You have the right to remain silent!”

That line has been repeated in movie after movie and show after show—so much so that everyone is familiar with the phase. If anything, people have associated the right to remain silent as a means to maintain innocence. However, according to the Supreme Court of California, refusing to speak could be considered evidence. Apparently, refusing to speak may have just as much weight as speaking up.

A woman and figurine both shushing the camera.

Photo by Laura Taylor

The issue of silence as evidence arose in a vehicular manslaughter case, The People v. Tom., Richard Tom broadsided a vehicle in California, which took the life of a passenger in the other car. Throughout his sentencing and prior to the case, Tom refused to speak on the issue. The prosecutors against him used his silence to get him convicted, maintaining that his refusal to speak out indicated his lack of remorse. When the court issued a guilty verdict, Tom decided to appeal.

The Decision

The Supreme Court of California rejected Tom’s appeal on the grounds that those exercising their right to remain silent under the Fifth Amendment must voice their intention to remain silent, as decided by a U.S. Supreme Court case, Salinas v. Texas. Since Tom made no indication that he was using his Fifth Amendment right, his silence was valid evidence against him. The dissenting opinion was concerned that the implications of the verdict may carry too much weight in the future.

If you would like to learn more about your rights and the legal representation that can be offered to you for your protection, contact the law offices of Gabriel L. Grasso at (702) 868 – 8866. As a seasoned criminal defense attorney in the Las Vegas area, Grasso Defense is the the choice for you.