Supreme Court limits ability to enforce Miranda rights

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23 Jun 2022, 1:46 pm

CNN

Quote:
The Supreme Court limited the ability to enforce Miranda rights in a ruling Thursday that said that suspects who are not warned about their right to remain silent cannot sue a police officer for damages under federal civil rights law even if the evidence was ultimately used against them in their criminal trial.

The court's ruling will cut back on an individual's protections against self-incrimination by barring the potential to obtain damages. It also means that the failure to administer the warning will not expose a law enforcement officer to potential damages in a civil lawsuit. It will not impact, however, the exclusion of such evidence at a criminal trial.
The court clarified that while the Miranda warning protects a constitutional right, the warning itself is not a right that would trigger the ability to bring a civil lawsuit.

"Today's ruling doesn't get rid of the Miranda right," said Steve Vladeck, CNN Supreme Court analyst and professor at the University of Texas School of Law. "But it does make it far harder to enforce. Under this ruling, the only remedy for a violation of Miranda is to suppress statements obtained from a suspect who's not properly advised of his right to remain silent. But if the case never goes to trial, or if the government never seeks to use the statement, or if the statement is admitted notwithstanding the Miranda violation, there's no remedy at all for the government's misconduct."

Justice Samuel Alito, joined by the five other Republican-appointed justices, said that a violation of the Miranda right "is not itself a violation of the Fifth Amendment," and that "we see no justification for expanding Miranda to confer a right to sue," under the relevant statute.

Justice Elena Kagan, joined by the other liberal justices, said that the court's ruling was stripping "individuals of the ability to seek a remedy for violations of the right recognized in Miranda."

The majority here, as elsewhere, injures the right by denying the remedy," she added.
The case involved Terence Tekoh, a hospital worker who was accused of sexually assaulting an immobilized female patient at a local hospital in 2014.

At issue was not whether a defendant must be read his Miranda rights, but whether he can sue an officer for damages if he doesn't receive the Miranda warning for evidence introduced in a criminal proceeding. Lower courts have split on the issue.

Carlos Vega, a Los Angeles County sheriff deputy, questioned Tekoh, although he failed to read him his rights as required by the 1966 precedent of Miranda v. Arizona, where the court held that a defendant must be warned of a "right to remain silent." Under that precedent, without the Miranda warning, criminal trial courts are generally barred from admitting self-incriminating statements made while the defendant was in custody.

Tekoh ultimately confessed to the crime, was tried and acquitted -- even after the introduction of his confession at trial. Later, he sued the officer under a federal law, Section 1983, that allows suits for damages against a government official for violating constitutional rights.

The parties disagreed on whether Vega used coercive techniques to extract an involuntary confession.


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