American civil liberties are being raped. I recently came across an article on The Atlantic Wire. The article discusses a MONUMENTAL issue of which Black Americans need to be aware.

The Story

The article looks at the case of Salinas Vs. Texas in which the courts have ruled that remaining silent when arrested can be used against you. In 1993 Genovevo Salinas was brought in for questioning regarding the murder of two brothers. He was told that he was being brought in to be questioned to clear him as a suspect. It was recorded that Salinas voluntarily answered the officers questions without being placed into custody because he was read his Miranda rights before answering the questions. Therefore when, during the questioning, Salinas fell silent and stopped answering questions it was determined that he was not specifically invoking his 5th amendment right to not incriminate himself because he did not state that as his reason for being silent.

According to the courts the 5th amendment states that a person “desiring the protection of privilege” must “claim it.” The court states that without verbally expressing the 5th amendment right silence is “insolubly ambiguous” and it cannot be assumed that the silence is an invocation of Inez’s 5th amendment right. The court went further as to suggest that because Salinas was reluctant to answer and “balked” when asked specifically whether a ballistics test would confirm that he was guilty (a question asked by the officers), that such action was evidence of guilt. Even though Salinas agreed to hand over his shotgun for ballistics testing in regards to the murder, the fact that he was upset at being asked an accusatory question regarding his innocence “suggested that he was guilty.”


The Problem

This new interpretation of the 5th amendment right now limits the freedom that was originally granted. It is now a requirement that civilians know the legal terminology and use it in order to be granted the rights that have been placed to protect them. Without accurately being able to articulate these rights, they will be denied. Who knows what that means for the rest of the Bill of Rights.

The United States is slowly slipping into an oppressive regime against its citizens. Average, tax-paying, 40+ hour working, beyond-their-means-spending Americans are immediately being viewed as potential criminals and obstructions to “justice.” The governmental officials and their officers are, of course, being viewed as above-the-law, infallible, and just members of society. This is the kind of incredulous shift that the country is taking. If it continues the country will turn against its inhabitants making them prisoners and servants rather than respected members. This is not “innocent until proven guilty” nor is it “for the people by the people.” It is an oligarchy that will terrorize the people much more viciously than any of the alleged “threats to national safety” or “weapons of mass destruction.”

The Point

America, Black America especially (because of the statistical fact that Blacks are incarcerated at a rate of 6 times that of Whites and the statistical fact that Blacks are 3 times more likely to be searched, 3 times more likely to be handcuffed, and 3 times more likely to be arrested than Whites), must recognize what is happening around us and how that will play out in our lives. It is nothing for someone to be stopped by an officer for a possible common infraction such as a traffic violation or being in the wrong place at the wrong time but for Black Americans (especially makes) that minor infraction can quickly snowball into a full fledged “threat” and a full fledged assault on their person and civil liberties.

Be informed and be aware of what is happening. I don’t pretend to know how to stop it — I wish I did and am always thinking of potential solutions. But my major purpose is to offer information on how to survive it. Our civil liberties, our amendment rights are being threatened and we must know the loopholes that they are using to violate them. Know that if you are detained by the police your liberties are no longer guaranteed, you will have to invoke them. Learn, memorize, print and carry them but do not remain ignorant. It may cost you your freedom.

I’m not sayin’; I’m just sayin’,

An Angry Black Man

  1. Jeff Nguyen says:

    Great dissection of an important and overlooked court shift along with allowing police to take DNA and do full body searches while being detained but before being placed under arrest. The deck has always been stacked and a system that tells you up front that your words “can and will be used against you” is letting you know it’s not on your side from the get-go.

    Telling a federal law enforcement officer “I don’t know” has led to perjury charges for activists. The best advice I’ve come across is don’t say anything beyond giving your name and basic identifying information. Of placed under arrest ask for a lawyer right away. CEO’s plead the 5th under oath all the time and walk away scot free. The justice system is tiered as you well know. Thanks for putting this valuable information out there.

    • DesiBjorn says:

      You made an excellent point: ‘a system that tells you up front that your words “can and will be used against you” is letting you know it’s not on your side from the get-go.’

      I definitely intend to do some dissection on the new searches/stop and frisk as well as the DNA samples. It is so imperative that we pay attention to these seemingly minor and meaningless changes because, as I’m sure you know, our entire judicial system (that decides fates, futures, and freedoms with the consideration and care of a child playing with ants) is built upon precedence. What one judge rules can change the RULES for decades to come and the average citizen (that doesn’t follow or hear about) these changes won’t realize it’s impact until its too late. So I’m definitely about spreading the word.

      Thanks for reading and responding.

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