Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Right to silence in Brazilian noncustodial interrogations

The Federal Supreme Court of Brazil has released an interesting decision in a case involving a soldier, with potential ramifications in a criminal prosecutions. The question presented was whether a person not in custody and not [yet] accused of criminal conduct has a right to remain silent. Held, the soldier, who confessed during an interrogation as a witness, should have been advised of that right. The Superior Military Tribunal had held that the soldier did not enjoy that right. According to this account,
Minister Celso de Mello wrote that "this is a case of great importance in that it reaffirms certain basic rights which apply whether or not the individual is in state custody." According to him, "the Constitution is very clear on this and, while referring the person arrested, the doctrine also extends to people who are at liberty." [Rough Google translation.]
The petitioner's confession was the only evidence against him. It is unusual for a broad generic ruling of constitutional law to be announced in the context of a military case, but that seems to be the case in this instance.

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