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Supreme Court rules against lawsuits that cite violation of Miranda rights

by Mike Creef, Staff Writer
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In a recent ruling, the Supreme Court blocked the ability for a person to file a civil rights lawsuit against police simply because their Miranda Rights were not provided at the time of arrest.

The ruling came in the case of Vega v. Tekoh, where a patient at a Los Angeles hospital said they had been sexually assaulted by a hospital worker, Terrence Tokah. Tokah was interviewed by Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy Carlos Vega, and later signed a confession statement. Both sides agree that Vega did not read Tokah his rights before their conversation, and Tokah claims he was coerced into confessing.

Tokah was acquitted of criminal charges by a jury and sued Vega for not providing his Miranda Rights at the time of confession. The lawsuit went all the way to the Supreme Court, which ruled Thursday in a 6-3 majority in favor of Vega.

Justice Samuel Alito wrote in the majority opinion that Miranda Rights, like the “right to remain silent”, were a set of guidelines rather than a constitutional right that could result in a civil lawsuit against police officers.

“A violation of Miranda is not itself a violation of the Fifth Amendment,” Justice Alito wrote.

supreme court affirmative action

The Roberts Court, April 23, 2021
Seated from left to right: Justices Samuel A. Alito, Jr. and Clarence Thomas, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., and Justices Stephen G. Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor
Standing from left to right: Justices Brett M. Kavanaugh, Elena Kagan, Neil M. Gorsuch, and Amy Coney Barrett.
Photograph by Fred Schilling, Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States

Supreme Court ruling severely weakens Miranda rights

Justice Elena Kagan said in the dissenting opinion 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 opinion said that the only remedy for a Miranda violation is to block the use in court of a suspect’s incriminating comments.

Tokah’s confession was used in his criminal trial, even after both parties agreed that his Miranda Rights were never given.

“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.” 

2 comments

DARRELL DISHMAN SR. June 23, 2022 - 7:36 pm

LOOK OUT AND LEARN, ACIREMA 2022…

libertasdon June 24, 2022 - 12:38 am

As your article points out, Miranda remains in tact for the purpose it was origianlly meant to uphold. And that is to bar adverse admissions of guilt unless the defendant was advised of his right to remain silent.

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