Police officers who fail to advise suspects of their rights upon arrest can’t later be sued by that defendant, the Supreme Court ruled Thursday.
The Supreme Court’s 6-3 split decision means police officers will not be subject to a lawsuit based on violating a person’s Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
Police typically issue Miranda warnings to suspects upon arrest, advising them of their rights to remain silent.
The court ruled in 1966’s Miranda vs. Arizona that suspects in custody have to be advised they have the right to remain silent and the right to a lawyer before questioning.
At issue was not whether defendants must be read their rights, but whether they can sue for damages if they aren’t given a Miranda warning.
The vote fell along party lines, with liberal Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan dissenting.
“In sum, a violation of Miranda does not necessarily constitute a violation of the Constitution, and therefore such a violation does not constitute ‘the deprivation of [a] right … secured by the Constitution,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote in the court’s majority opinion.
“Because a violation of Miranda is not itself a violation of the Fifth Amendment, and because we see no justification for expanding Miranda to confer a right to sue under §1983, the judgment of the Court of Appeals is reversed.”
Section 1983 that Alito refers to allows lawsuits for damages against a government official for violating constitutional rights.
The case itself involved California hospital worker Terence Tekoh, who was accused of sexually assaulting an immobilized female patient in 2014.
He was questioned by a deputy who failed to read Tekoh his rights. Tekoh was later acquitted in a criminal trial, despite having confessed.
He then sued Los Angeles County sheriff deputy Carlos Vega for violating his constitutional right.
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