These Are Your Rights- So Long As You’re Not Dumb Enough To Actually Try Them*

*- bonus points to whomever recalls these lyrics.

The SCOTUS (Supreme Court of the United States) website is a fascinating page, and I recommend everyone add it to their bookmarks.  You can peruse the history of all the cases, decisions and dissenting opinions of every judgment handed down by them.  Especially this week, were you can see how The Land of The Free and the Home of The Brave continues to display a dogged determination not to be so.  And it starts deep in the heart o’ Texas.

Now just wait right here while we call your lawyer.

The U.S. Supreme Court, the ultimate arbiters of law and justice in our land, has ruled in the case of Salinas vs. Texas that unless you loudly and obviously declare so- and you damn well better get it on tape, to boot- merely refusing to answer specific questions put to you by law enforcement is not enough to invoke your Fifth Amendment Rights.  The entire case swung on the fact that Salinas had voluntarily went with police to be questioned, and declined to answer only when asked if shotgun shells found at the crime scene would match his weapon.  To be fair, you can see their point: as pointed out in the case, answering all the other questions put to you except the vital ones would definitely make a sensible person wonder.  It’s a fine line that’s ultimately the point of this specific clause of the Amendment: that no one shall be compelled in a criminal case to be a witness against themselves.

I’ll be honest- as a child I was a bit confused about pleading the Fifth.  The specific clause invoked is that no one shall be compelled in a criminal case to be a witness against themselves.  I’ve just never been sure why, though, especially since it doesn’t apply to civil cases as the main punitive difference between the two is jail time as a criminal conviction can also result in restitution to the injured parties.  But this is for prosecutors to try to sway jurors with during the trial, not for judges to (mis) interpret to the detriment of the citizenry mainly because they’ve got no other argument against it.  Slate.com has a pretty good take on the state of things.

The pervasiveness of the ruling isn’t just felt by the left wing and progressives.  Even Forbes offered up a few words about what the decision means for white collar investigations.  Can’t wait until a ponzi-schemer tries this.  You can find a detailed overview of the case which poses the question of when does the Right to Remain Silent begin here.

And there’s that other Texas-based decision regarding Voter Registration.  While it’s true that the voting maps in question are outdated, the reasoning behind the law is sound and should still apply to the redrawn maps.  There were several cases in the early 90s about congressional redistricting that centered upon disenfranchising the voters which could easily be applied here… except they weren’t.  Federal oversight of voting irregularities was often all that stood between rampant voter fraud and illegally striking non-white voters from the polls, even as recently as Bush the Lesser’s first presidential election.  ‘Hanging Chads’, anyone? 

The implications are clear and amount to the same old same old.  As far as knocking non-white, non-Republican voters off the registry, anything goes.  Especially when the Supreme Court itself is happy to help out.  I’m all for this nation being a Republic- certain criteria should be met before being able to cast votes.  But once you’re in, folks just gotta deal with it.  Otherwise, what’s the point?

As far as the DOMA rulings striking down restrictions against same-sex marriage go, I’m all for it, but I’ll let some else post about them.  I’m not greedy.  🙂

8 thoughts on “These Are Your Rights- So Long As You’re Not Dumb Enough To Actually Try Them*

  1. Awesome article John. Scalia's dissent on DOMA made my face pucker. The Supreme Court is supposed to look at the cases that come before them from a neutral legal standpoint, minus their personal views. Some justices didn't get that memo. The taking of DNA upon arrests boggles my mind, as earlier decisions made this practice intrusive and warrants needed unless given up voluntarily upon questioning. There are too many ways to interpret laws according to whomever is reading them. One person says this so and so practice is okay, the other says no its not. It's not supposed to be open to that much interpretation, that much leeway, and that's where the problems come in. When every Tom, Dick and Harry may read laws differently, depending on their own bent, in a few years someone else will throw all of this out.

  2. So many stuff happening over there in the last few days, your Supreme Court has been busy.

    I'm still not very clear about why parts of the VRA was declared inconstitutional (I'm not American, that's what you're also talking about right?), but it's just awful. Can't the government actually add to the Constitution so that the VRA is actually part of it (and therefore, not inconstitutional). I'm sorry if it's a dumb question but in my country the Constitution can be altered. :/

  3. it's not a dumb question at all. It's an intelligent observation. The US Constitution is modified through the use of amendments. Once a law is made, it needs to be amended for any corrections or additions. Here is more information about the amendment process (see link below). I hope that helps, and thank you for your question.
    http://www.usconstitution.net/constam.html

  4. Slayra, it's an informed question- one a lot of our fellow citizens lag far behind on.

    When the Constitution was first drafted by Thomas Jefferson and they boys in 1787, a compromise known as the 'Three-Fifths Clause' was included, reducing the potential power of southern states. Delegates are allotted by population, and states heavily vested in slave owning would overpower lesser slave owning ones, which led to the notion of counting slaves and other non-white residents as three-fifths of a person for these purposes.

    This didn't change until voting rights were constitutionally amended in 1870, after the Civil War- allowing non-white Americans a full right to vote, or specifically non-white American MALES to do so. Women, including white women, weren't allowed until 1920, when the 19th Amendment was passed. Interesting, eh?

  5. And… I'm double posting/commenting because only after I refreshed the page did I see John's comment. Sorry about that. 🙂

    That is quite interesting indeed (but sad too). Thank you for the information. I hope all of you (the people) can find a solution to this awful restriction of rights. After all, citizens pay taxes and finance the Government so I think they all get a say in who governs them. 😛

    When our first Republic was established in 1910 all (non-clerical, because it was decided that would be a violation of the separation between Church and State… weird, but true) males could vote, but yeah, women were only allowed to vote in 1931 (during a dictatorship!) O_O

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