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Name: Berghuis v. Thompkins
Case #: 08-1470
Court: US Supreme Court
District USSup
Opinion Date: 06/01/2010
Subsequent History: 130 S.Ct. 2550; 176 L.Ed.2d 1098
Summary

Under Miranda, if the right to remain silent is unambiguously invoked, interrogation must cease. Silence itself is not an invocation of the right to silence, but even absent an unambiguous invocation of the right to remain silent, a statement will be inadmissible unless it is found that the accused waived his rights when he made the statement at issue. Thompkins was arrested for a shooting in which one victim was injured and another died. Following his arrest, he was interrogated for approximately three hours by two officers. At the beginning of the interrogation, one of the officers gave Thompkins a form listing the standard Miranda rights and asked him to read aloud the right advising of the right to remain silent at any time and right to talk to an attorney. Thompkins complied with the request, but declined to sign the form. He did not state that he wished to remain silent or that he did not want to talk to the police, and did not indicate he wanted an attorney. He essentially remained silent for the next three hours until the officer asked him if he believed in God, prayed to God, and if he prayed to God for forgiveness for shooting that boy. Thompkins then answered, “Yes,” and the statement came in at trial. Analyzing whether Thompkins’s Miranda rights were violated, the Supreme Court extended the reach of Davis v. United States (1994) 512 U.S. 452 (requiring an unambiguous request for counsel in the Miranda context) and found that when advised of Miranda rights, in order to invoke the right to silence and terminate the interrogation, a suspect must do so unambiguously. Mere silence will not serve as an invocation of the right and the interrogation can continue. Any response made by the suspect, however, will be inadmissible unless it is shown that the suspect knowingly and voluntarily waived his rights when he made the statement. Here, Thompkins was fully advised of his Miranda rights and there is nothing to suggest he did not understand them. When Thompkins did not unambiguously invoke his right to silence, the police were not required to terminate the interrogation and could continue it without first obtaining Thompkins’s waiver of rights, either express or implied. Understanding his rights in full, Thompkins then impliedly waived his right to remain silent by making the voluntary statement to the police and the statement could later be used in trial without violating the protection of Miranda, as it was. [Five/four decision with Justice Sotomayer writing the dissent.]