Miranda requires that a person taken into custody be advised immediately that he has the right to remain silent, that anything he says may be used against him, and that he has a right to counsel before submitting to interrogation. Silence in the wake of these warnings may be nothing more than the exercise of these rights. In such circumstances, it would be fundamentally unfair and a deprivation of due process to allow the arrested person's silence to be used to impeach an explanation subsequently offered at trial.
Petitioners, Doyle and Wood, were arrested for selling ten pounds of marijuana to an informant. Petitioners were convicted in separate trials based on the same evidence. Petitioners were arrested and given Miranda warnings. The defense’s cross-examination of the arresting officers concentrated mostly on how the arresting officers could not see the actual transaction. Both petitioners took the stand and admitted almost everything about the state’s respective case, but, who sold marijuana to whom. Petitioners alleged that the informant framed them and that he was the one who was selling the marijuana. Petitioners' testimony was problematic for the prosecution, so during cross-examination, for impeachment purposes, the respective prosecutors asked the Petitioners why they did not confess the frame up story to the arresting officers. Defense counsel objected to the prosecutor's questions.
May a state prosecutor seek to impeach a defendant’s exculpatory story, told for the first time at trial, by cross-examining the defendant about his failure to have told the story after receiving Miranda warnings at the time of his arrest?
The use of the defendant’s post-arrest silence in this manner violates due process.” The majority observed, “[s]ilence in the wake of these warnings may be nothing more than the arrestee’s exercise of these Miranda rights. Thus, every post-arrest silence is insolubly ambiguous because of what the State is required to advise the person arrested.” Further, “while it is true that the Miranda warnings contain no express assurance that silence will carry no penalty, such assurance is implicit to any person who receives the warnings. In such circumstances, it would be fundamentally unfair and a deprivation of due process to allow the arrested person’s silence to be used to impeach an explanation subsequently offered at trial.