When May the State Use Evidence of a Defendant’s Silence Before Trial?

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the prohibition against the State commenting on a defendant’s failure to testify, or, in other words, a defendant’s silence at trial. Such comments are disallowed as they abridge a defendant’s federal and state constitutional rights not to be compelled to give self-incriminating evidence. This post addresses a related issue:  When and how may the State in a criminal trial use evidence of a defendant’s silence before trial to establish a defendant’s guilt or impeach a defendant’s credibility? (This is not the first time we have written about this topic on the blog. Jessie Smith did so here in 2012; nevertheless, a few relevant cases have been decided since then, and I thought it would be helpful to revisit the issue.)

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References to the Defendant’s Assertion of Miranda Rights

Sometimes the state wants to introduce evidence that the defendant invoked his right to remain silent or his right to counsel under Miranda. If the prosecution’s purpose is simply to imply the defendant’s guilt, we know that’s improper from Miranda itself: “In accord with our decision today, it is impermissible to penalize an individual for … Read more