Evoking the right to remain silent by remaining silent is too ambiguous, the United States Supreme Court held yesterday. In yet another 5-4 decision chipping away at the right of the people to be other than supine playthings for the state, the Court held that silence, even protracted silence, is no bar to interrogation by police officers.
The ruling in Berghuis v. Thompkins hardly surprises. The law tilts increasingly in favor of law enforcement. Such rights as we retain against the government and state actors are eroded in the name of judicial restraint. We're going to repeal the "activism" of the Warren Court if it takes a Gulag to do it.
But take heart. It is still the law that citizens cannot breach the peace of a police officer. In other words, the normal bar against offensive speech applicable to communications between private citizens does not apply to a confrontation between a police officer and a citizen. It's still all right to blow off some steam when the boys in blue come looking for you.
The Supreme Court decided conclusively that you must make it clear and umabiguous to police officers that you want to remain silent. Normal polite conventions, such as refusing to speak, do not apply. You need to spell it out for the coppers. Make it crystal clear. Lay it out loud and bold.
So here is a quick street pointer to those suddenly in the clutches of the police: Call it Street Miranda.
1. Hey, numb fucking nuts. (Male)
Hey, you ovarian lump. (Female)
2. Read my lips. Look me in the eye. Put the freaking donut down and tape record this so you can't deny I said it later. Are you ready? C'mon, focus. Ready?
3. Fuck off. Kiss my ass. Eat shit. Die. Do anything you want to do, but do it elsewhere because I am not buying your shit. Period.
4. Do I have your attention yet? Am I clear enough for you? Is my tone ambiguous you reptilian cocksucker (male) or slut (female)?
5. Good. I see I have your attention. Now check your tape recorder to make sure it is working.
6. Although my lips are moving, I do not want to talk to you without a lawyer present. I do not believe you have my best interest in mind. You have the right to trick me, to deceive me, and you have been taught to gain and then abuse my trust.
7. Anything I say, and how I say it, will be used by you to try to convict me whether I am guilty or not. You will lie, distort and manipulate the evidence to suit your purposes. You have the assistance of the prosecutor without cost to you. Anything you want you can get if your suspicions about me are significant.
8. I want a lawyer because I do not trust you. I want this recorded because I do not trust you. I do not want to answer any more questions until I have a lawyer because you are untrustowrthy. Stop looking at me like you just fell off a turnip truck. Shut the fuck up and get out of my face.
9. Am I clear enough now?
Of course, carrying on in this vein has its downside. But it has the benefit of being unambiguous enough for most police officers to understand. Some members of the Supreme Court will undoubtedly struggle with the nuances.