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Name: People v. Tom
Case #: A124764
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 1 DCA
Division: 3
Opinion Date: 03/19/2012
Subsequent History: Review gr. 6/20/12: S202107
Summary

The Fifth Amendment right to remain silent attaches at the time of arrest, or coercive circumstances which constitute a de facto arrest, and the prosecution violates that right by presenting evidence of the defendant’s silence in their case in chief. The defendant’s vehicle was traveling at a high rate of speed when it broadsided another vehicle. He was convicted of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence based on the death of a child in the broadsided vehicle. He was held in coercive circumstances that were tantamount to an arrest: he wanted to leave but was told that he could not because the investigation was ongoing; he was held in a patrol car; and, he was eventually driven to the police station for further investigation. Much later in the evening, he was placed under arrest and given Miranda warnings. During trial the prosecutor elicited from two officers that Mr. Tom never inquired about the well being of the occupants of the other car. The prosecutor argued to the jury that the lack of concern demonstrated an, “I don’t care” attitude which was consistent with gross negligence and that the way he acted after the collision demonstrated a consciousness of guilt. The reversal was based on the erroneous introduction of evidence of the defendant’s silence.