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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 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.”