University of Pittsburgh

David Harris Available to Comment on Salinas v. Texas Case Challenging the Fifth Amendment’s Self-Incrimination Clause, to be Argued April 17 Before the U.S. Supreme Court

Publish Date/Time: 
April 16, 2013

 


“Americans know that the Fifth Amendment guarantees the right to remain silent … The Salinas case tests whether it's fair to use a person's silence against him when he refuses to talk to police before his arrest.” — Professor Harris


The Self-Incrimination Clause of the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution precludes an individual from being compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself. The United States Supreme Court has ruled that the clause guarantees “the right of a person to remain silent . . . and to suffer no penalty . . . for such silence.” 

David A. Harris, professor of law and associate dean for research in the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, is available to comment on Salinas v. Texas, a lawsuit scheduled for oral argument before the U.S. Supreme Court on April 17. The issue before the Court is whether or under which circumstances the Fifth Amendment’s Self-Incrimination Clause protects an individual’s refusal to answer law enforcement questioning before he or she has been arrested or read Miranda rights.

“Americans know that the Fifth Amendment guarantees the right to remain silent so that they are not compelled to incriminate themselves,” said Harris. “The Salinas case tests whether it's fair to use a person's silence against him when he refuses to talk to police before his arrest. In other words, if the suspect does remain silent, the state can later tell the jury that his silence shows he's guilty.”

A rule like that, says Harris, makes a mockery of the U.S. Constitution. “Instead of having a protected right to silence, the suspect is forced to decide between three terrible choices: give a statement and implicate himself; lie, and be charged with perjury; or refuse to talk—as the Constitution says he can!—but have that silence used against him to prove his guilt. That's wrong, and the Supreme Court should not allow it.”

A Pitt School of Law Distinguished Faculty Scholar, Harris studies, writes, and teaches about law enforcement, criminal justice policy, and criminal procedure, among other areas. He is the leading national authority on racial justice profiling. His 2002 book, Profiles in Injustice: Why Racial Profiling Cannot Work (The New Press), and his scholarly articles about traffic stops and frisks have influenced the national debate on profiling and related topics. In his latest book, Failed Evidence: Why Law Enforcement Resists Science (NYU Press, 2012), Harris examines why many police and prosecutorial agencies oppose replacing questionable investigative methods with science-based, empirically proven techniques.

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