In order to have your rights upheld in this country, do you now have to officially announce them out loud?
Earlier this month, the same Supreme Court who found that Americans can be strip searched during an arrest for any offense also found that a person’s silence can, in fact, be used against him if he does not officially announce that he is invoking his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent.
The Atlantic Wire reported:
Basically, if you’re ever in any trouble with police (no, we don’t condone breaking laws) and want to keep your mouth shut, you will need to announce that you’re invoking your Fifth Amendment right instead of, you know, just keeping your mouth shut. ‘Petitioner’s Fifth Amendment claim fails because he did not expressly invoke the privilege against self-incrimination in response to the officer’s question,’ reads the opinion from Justice Samuel Alito, which Justice Kennedy and Chief Justice John Roberts backed. Justices Thomas and Scalia had a concurring opinion while the remaining four Supremes dissented. [emphasis added]
(Notice Justice Alito referred to our Fifth Amendment right as a “privilege” — Isn’t it wonderful that these people are appointed to their positions for life?)
Apparently through some seemingly made up semantic loophole, because the suspect was not officially read his Miranda rights to begin with (which includes the right to remain silent), and because the suspect voluntarily answered questions at first before deciding later to become silent, it has now been decided that silence under those conditions can be used against him in a court of law.
The portion of the Fifth Amendment this decision impacts is this one:
“…nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law…”
It should be noted that, in any criminal proceeding from a simple traffic stop on up, police are actively investigating from the time they arrive on scene — hence the Miranda warning that anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.
The Supreme Court’s decision implies that, in order for our God-given natural rights as listed in the Bill of Rights to protect us, we must verbally invoke them first. I didn’t realize the Amendments came with ‘magic words’.
If that is the case, let’s talk specifics. Exactly how does this Fifth Amendment declaration have to be made to be considered “official”? Does the person have to say the words, “I am now invoking my Fifth Amendment right and will remain silent”? Can the person just say “Fifth Amendment”? What if the person is mute, can he or she wear a shirt with the words “I invoke my Fifth Amendment” on it? Do we as American citizens all need to start walking around wearing shirts that read “I hereby invoke:” followed by a list of all of our rights underneath to have them be upheld?
Sure, that last paragraph was a bunch of sarcastic rhetorical nonsense, but nonsense is the idea of Americans being forced to call what The Atlantic Wire dubs an “on-the-fly legal equivalent of ‘safesies'” in order to have our rights recognized by our warped, tyrannical government’s legal system.
As with so-called Free Speech Zones and the Patriot Act, this latest decision just shows in sad detail one of the many ways our government continues to play semantic games with our Constitution to further limit our rights.