Supreme Court rules out suing police for Miranda violations

The Supreme Court ruled in a 6-3 decision Thursday that a defendant whose written statement admitting to sexual assault despite not being read his Miranda warnings cannot bring a claim against the officer, even when the statement was used against him in court.

The Miranda warnings, which include telling a suspect they have a right to remain silent, are customarily recited upon arrest or before statements are given. The warnings come from the Supreme Court case Miranda v. Arizona. 

“Miranda itself was clear on this point. Miranda did not hold that a violation of the rules it established necessarily constitute a Fifth Amendment violation, and it is difficult to see how it could have held otherwise,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote in the Court’s opinion, in which he extensively referenced the Miranda decision. “Instead, it claimed only that those rules were needed to safeguard that right during custodial interrogation,” he later added.

In dissent for the court’s three liberals, Justice Elena Kagan wrote that the decision “prevents individuals from obtaining any redress when police violate their rights under Miranda.”

“Today, the Court strips individuals of the ability to seek a remedy for violations of the right recognized in Miranda,” Kagan wrote. She recognized that the majority opinion “observes that defendants may still seek ‘the suppression at trial of statements obtained’ in violation of Miranda’s procedures,” but that in some cases, “such a statement will not be suppressed.”

As a result, Kagan wrote, a defendant would suffer harm, for which §1983 claims provide a remedy, but the Court’s ruling “injures the right by denying the remedy.”

The case began when a woman who suffered a stroke said she was assaulted at a Los Angeles hospital and identified hospital worker Terrence Tekoh as her attacker. Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy Carlos Vega talked to Tekoh, who signed a statement confessing to the assault.

Both sides agree that Vega did not read Tekoh his rights before their conversation at the hospital. But they disagree about whether Tekoh was coerced into confessing.

Even with the statement used against him at trial, a jury acquitted Tekoh of criminal charges. Tekoh then turned around and sued Vega, who won both cases in a civil court, however a federal appeals court ruled Tekoh should have another chance.

The deputy appealed to the Supreme Court, which agreed to hear the case.




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