California Supreme Court Says Your Silence Can Now Be Used Against You

| by Michael Allen

Most Americans are familiar with the Miranda rights or Miranda warning, which says you have the right to remain silent when you're being arrested or detained by police.

In the 1966 case of Miranda vs. Arizona, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that statements made by a defendant being questioned by police could only be used in a trial if the police informed the defendant of his or her right to remain silent, and the right to consult a lawyer or public defender before and during questioning.

Miranda rights are based on the Fifth Amendment that protects Americans from self-incrimination.

However, the California Supreme Court appeared to change Miranda vs. Arizona and the Fifth Amendment by recently ruling that the silence of a suspect can actually be used in court against him or her as a sign of guilt.

The California Supreme Court ruled last Friday 4-3: The prosecution may use a defendant's pretrial silence as evidence of guilt, provided the defendant has not yet been Mirandized.

"It's a very dangerous ruling," attorney Marc Zilversmit told the Associated Press. "If you say anything to the police, that can be used against you. Now, if you don't say anything before you are warned of your rights, that too can be used against you."

According to, "The court’s decision... requires many arrestees to explicitly invoke their right to remain silent in order to benefit from that right. The only way to safely remain silent is to speak first."

California Supreme Court Justice Goodwin Liu, who was one of the three dissenting votes, wrote in his opinion: "The court today holds, against common sense expectations, that remaining silent after being placed under arrest is not enough to exercise one's right to remain silent."

Sources:,, Associated Press (Image Credit: Tomwsulcer)