Try Explaining This to Young People

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The 5th Amendment says “No person…shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself…” This can be taught to 9th graders or earlier. So now you explain that this means you have a right to remain silent. OK, so far. But now you have to explain the Supreme Court’s decision. Despite the unhedged language of the 5th, the Court says it’s not true! In the words of their decision:

“The Fifth Amendment guarantees that no one may be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself; it does not establish an unqualified right to remain silent.”

You cannot be compelled but the Court says that if you remain silent, that may be used against you in a trial. Although the 5th doesn’t qualify the right, the Court has decided that it does, and it even knows what that qualification is. I think it’s miraculous how the Court manages to communicate with the spirit of the Constitution, something we mere mortals cannot do, and how it unerringly finds out what it really says that we have missed.

There is no way to make any sense out of this decision except to conclude that the Court wants to eviscerate the 5th Amendment by changing the legal rules surrounding it.

“Before petitioner could rely on the privilege against self-incrimination, he was required to invoke it.”

The Court’s adding a condition. It isn’t enough that the Constitution states the right. A person has to know this right and invoke it. The person has to say that under the authority of the 5th Amendment, he is not going to say anything.

Mind you, this has been what the Constitution meant since 1787 but previous Courts didn’t have the extraordinary spiritual insights of the current one. This Court has finally ferreted out the real truth that has been been buried in the 5th all these years.

The Court in this decision institutes discrimination against those who do not know enough to mention the 5th Amendment but who know enough to remain silent.

As far as I can tell after years of observation, the federal government is simply horrible. I favor dissolving it, lock, stock and barrel.

4:56 pm on June 18, 2013
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