Criminal Defendant's Silence in California

In Doyle v. Ohio (1976) 426 U.S. 610, the United States Supreme Court held that a person's silence in the wake of Miranda warnings may be nothing more than an exercise of the right to remain silent, and that using that silence to impeach a person's trial testimony would be "fundamentally unfair and a deprivation of due process . . . ." (Id. at pp. 617-618 pp. 97-98.) However, the California Supreme Court has consistently held that " 'if a person is accused of having committed a crime, under circumstances which fairly afford him an opportunity to hear, understand, and to reply, and which do not lend themselves to an inference that he was relying on the right of silence guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution, and he fails to speak, or he makes an evasive or equivocal reply, both the accusatory statement and the fact of silence or equivocation may be offered as an implied or adoptive admission of guilt.' " (People v. Jennings (2010) 50 Cal.4th 616, 661.) " 'A typical example of an adoptive admission is the accusatory statement to a criminal defendant made by a person other than a police officer, and defendant's conduct of silence, or his words or equivocal and evasive replies in response. With knowledge of the accusation, the defendant's conduct of silence or his words in the nature of evasive or equivocal replies lead reasonably to the inference that he believes the accusatory statement to be true.' " (People v. Silva (1988) 45 Cal.3d 604, 623-624.) The Supreme Court has indicated that a criminal defendant's silence may not be used as an adoptive admission if the defendant has been given Miranda warnings, suspects that his conversation is being monitored, and intends his silence as an invocation of his constitutional right to remain silent. (People v. Medina (1990) 51 Cal.3d 870, 890-891.)