Supreme Court To Citizens: Miranda Rights Aren’t Actually Rights So No More Suing About Them

from the just-because-your-rights-were-violated-is-no-reason-to-su dept

The “Miranda rights” established by the Supreme Court in 1966 are a little less guaranteed going forward. The Supreme Court has issued an opinion [PDF] that limits what citizens whose rights have been violated can do — limiting them to exercising these rights during criminal trials as a component of their Fifth Amendment rights.

The Miranda warning mandated by the Supreme Court is supposed to prevent arrestees from being deprived of legal representation during questioning or exercising their Fifth Amendment right to remain silent. Any statements made in lieu of the reading of these rights (and the affirmative waiving of these rights by arrestees) are supposed to render statements made without warning/respect for these rights unusable in court.

Many times this isn’t the case. The un-Mirandized statements survive dismissal attempts and result in people being convicted despite their rights being violated. When consequent challenges (at the appellate level, etc.) reveal the statements were made without respect or notification of these rights, citizens have usually been able to file civil rights lawsuits alleging violations of their Fifth Amendment rights under the Miranda decision.

That is no longer the case. The Supreme Court (in a ideologically split 6-3 decision) has declared suing over violated Miranda rights is no longer an option. Here’s the ACLU’s summary of the decision:

Today, in Vega v. Tekoh, the court backtracked substantially on its Miranda promise. In Vega, the court held 6-3 (over an excellent dissent by Justice Elena Kagan) that an individual who is denied Miranda warnings and whose compelled statements are introduced against them in a criminal trial cannot sue the police officer who violated their rights, even where a criminal jury finds them not guilty of any crime. By denying people whose rights are violated the ability to seek redress under our country’s most important civil rights statute, the court has further widened the gap between the guarantees found in the Bill of Rights and the people’s ability to hold government officials accountable for violating them.

The Supreme Court says the Miranda ruling was nothing more than something meant to encourage law enforcement officers to respect Fifth Amendment rights. Even if they fail to do so, it doesn’t mean they should be sued for rights violations.

In Miranda, the Court concluded that additional procedural protections were necessary to prevent the violation of the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination when suspects who are in custody are interrogated by the police. Miranda imposed a set of prophylactic rules requiring that custodial interrogation be preceded by now-familiar warnings and disallowing the use of statements obtained in violation of these new rules by the prosecution in its case-in-chief. Miranda did not hold that a violation of the rules it established necessarily constitute a Fifth Amendment violation. That makes sense, as an un-Mirandized suspect in custody may make self-incriminating statements without any hint of compulsion.

Maybe so. But that’s the entire point of the Miranda ruling. Law enforcement is supposed to make people aware of their rights so they don’t make self-incriminating statements under the mistaken belief they have no other option but to start talking while in police custody. The “prophylactic” is supposed to shield people from law enforcement abuse of their rights, but this decision encourages abuse by limiting the possible negative outcomes of Miranda rights violations.

This is something law enforcement already routinely abuses. Cops will question people in their homes, cars, driveways, places of work — all under the legal assumption that a person surrounded by officers (but not actually locked in an interrogation room) is somehow “free to go.” Even when they do Mirandize people, they do everything they can to subvert these rights to avoid having to deal with lawyers or arrestees who now realize they don’t have to say a damn thing while being questioned.

This decision means some rights are more equal than others. You can still file a Section 1983 lawsuit against officers for violating other rights (Fourth, First, Eighth, and Fourteenth are the most common) but you can’t sue under certain elements of the Fifth Amendment.

The facts of the case undercut this conclusion. Here’s a very concise summary of the events leading to this lawsuit, which started when law enforcement arrested Terence Tekoh for allegedly sexually assaulting an immobilized female patient at a Los Angeles hospital:

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

This decision limits the remedy for Miranda violations to the suppression of evidence during trials — something that did not happen here. The prosecution was able to convince the trial court Tekoh’s statements were voluntary, even if the officers never informed Tekoh of his rights.

The dissent (written by Elena Kagan) points out the majority is overriding its own precedent and claiming there’s no inherent rights violations in interrogating someone who hasn’t been informed of their rights. The Supreme Court now pretends Miranda rights are not constitutional rights, despite stating otherwise several times.

Begin with whether Miranda is “secured by the Constitution.” We know that it is, because the Court’s decision in Dickerson says so. Dickerson tells us again and again that Miranda is a “constitutional rule.” 530 U. S., at 444. It is a “constitutional decision” that sets forth “‘concrete constitutional guidelines.’” Id., at 432, 435 (quoting Miranda, 384 U. S., at 442). Miranda “is constitutionally based”; or again, it has a “constitutional basis.” 530 U. S., at 439, n. 3, 440. It is “of constitutional origin”; it has “constitutional underpinnings.” Id., at 439, n. 3, 440, n. 5. And—one more—Miranda sets a “constitutional minimum.” 530 U. S., at 442. Over and over, Dickerson labels Miranda a rule stemming from the Constitution.

But not anymore, the majority has unilaterally declared. Now it’s just a “prophylactic” meant to protect people from rights abuses. When it fails to do so, the Supreme Court says there’s no rights violation, which means no one can sue over these specific violations. The Fifth Amendment isn’t stricken from the litigation books, but it is damaged by the court’s decision to make Miranda rights violations exempt from civil rights lawsuits.

Today, the Court strips individuals of the ability to seek a remedy for violations of the right recognized in Miranda. The majority observes that defendants may still seek “the suppression at trial of statements obtained” in violation of Miranda’s procedures. Ante, at 14–15. But sometimes, such a statement will not be suppressed. And sometimes, as a result, a defendant will be wrongly convicted and spend years in prison. He may succeed, on appeal or in habeas, in getting the conviction reversed. But then, what remedy does he have for all the harm he has suffered? The point of §1983 is to provide such redress—because a remedy “is a vital component of any scheme for vindicating cherished constitutional guarantees.” Gomez v. Toledo, 446 U. S. 635, 639 (1980). The majority here, as elsewhere, injures the right by denying the remedy.

The (occasional [it didn’t even happen in the case triggering this SCOTUS review!]) suppression of evidence may derail a few prosecutions. But it won’t do anything to encourage cops to ensure the people they question are apprised of their rights under the law. If anything, it will encourage officers to keep detainees and arrestees in the dark, knowing they can’t be directly sued for refusing them access to counsel or pretending these rights don’t exist to coerce people into confessions. The decision is pure cognitive dissonance: one that says un-Mirandized statements are a rights violation when submitted as evidence during trials but not a rights violation when the falsely accused/arrested/convicted bring lawsuits against officers.

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Comments on “Supreme Court To Citizens: Miranda Rights Aren’t Actually Rights So No More Suing About Them”

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jojo_36 (profile) says:

I am just tired of this freaking mess of a country

This disturbing term of the Supreme Court will go down as “The Great Regression.” Abortion? state-level gun regulations? environmental protection? Miranda Rights? Church and State? Long-term consequences? This is the term that the Sinister Six officially say: Who gives a fuck; we only listen to our patrons now and only them. Fuck legitimacy, fuck checks and balances, and fuck basic human rights. Nothing matters to these tyrants. Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

so many of these important decisions have gone the wrong way.

Three things:
1) “the wrong way” is dependent upon one’s viewpoint. There are people for whom these cases have gone they way they most hoped.
2) Write to your congresspeople – both state and federal – and ask them to support legislation putting Miranda (and Roe) into law. And for them to consider drafting constitutional amendments putting them into the constitution(s).

And lastly, having said the above, I’ll Gertrude in that I, too, am dismayed at these recent rulings. Thus the drive to “put it into law”. § 1983 is only a limited stopgap, and Bivens is vanishing.

DBA Phillip Cross says:

Re: Re: Re:2

You might want to take a look at that AC’s comment below about the internet having a “backronym.”

The US-FVEY’s is 100% infiltrated by military spooks, who will database, target, stalk, and harass you for your opinions.

Its less of a comment, and more of a threat, issued here at this “innocuous, tech-focused, good-guys and girls, western media outlet.”

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

1) “the wrong way” is dependent upon one’s viewpoint. There are people for whom these cases have gone they way they most hoped.

It’s also worth noting that the courts, in theory, don’t get to decide what the law should say; they’re only supposed to interpret what’s written. If people want to claim a court got something wrong, they should be describing how the judgment differs from the law, not how it differs from their personal opinion. If it’s just the latter, complain about (or to) the legislators.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

“1) “the wrong way” is dependent upon one’s viewpoint. There are people for whom these cases have gone they way they most hoped”

The decisions, perhaps. I feel that a lot of people are in for some very unpleasant surprises about the effects they actually have in reality vs. what they imagined them to be. For example, if the people who support the reversal of Roe think that the effect will be zero abortions, I have some very bad news for them.

Naughty Autie says:

Re: Re: Re:2

For example, if the people who support the reversal of Roe think that the effect will be zero abortions, I have some very bad news for them.

Yeah. The high amount of backstreet abortions and the people (both adults and unborn) dying as a result of them here in the UK is why my government finally passed legislation in 1967 to allow access to safe abortions in clean surroundings.

Lostinlodos (profile) says:

Re: Seriously?


There is no federal law or constitutional dictation on abortion so the court correctly sent it back to the states to address in law. If congress were to make and pass a law or amendment to the constitution then it would be a federal concer.

state-level gun regulations?

Is a federal issue as it’s part of the constitution.

environmental protection?

I’m not sure what your referring to.

Miranda Rights?

I’ll cover later

Church and State?

Not sure I’ve seen any issue here, yet. As concerning it is as a topic.
But the wall still looks to stand. For now.

Long-term consequences?

Well, that’s nothing new

This is the first I’ve seen that appears to be political alone in reason.

Anonymous Coward says:

so, out of curiosity, as it seems to be heading that way VERY FAST NOW, when are these ‘judges’ on the Supreme Court going to actually throw the Constitution out the window, over the side and under the bus? it’s not gonna be long, given what has happened since Friday last and how it appears to be taking as many rights as possible away from the people! if it dont remind readers of anything, look back at what the Nazis were doing 8o years ago, how many of them were brought to the USA at the end of WWII and what that stupid move has resulted in!!

ECA (profile) says:

Waiting for it

Supreme court. Filled 5 seats under trump with republican entries. Rushed to fast to fill it was hard to tell When it started.
Democrats tried to get a few democratic candidates in, but the Republicans Stalled and held off until the next president was in office.
Also there is no limit as to the number of Justices.

And why cant we Force them to abide by what they SAID to Congress?

This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it.

Koby (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Democrats tried to get a few democratic candidates in, but the Republicans Stalled and held off until the next president was in office.

Thank goodness for Harry Reid nuking the judicial filibuster.

And why cant we Force them to abide by what they SAID to Congress?

The Ginsburg rule. Nominees only explain how the law currently works during the confirmation hearings. Testimony is no longer a guarantee of how a justice will vote after confirmation, and cannot be held against them.

This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it.

Naughty Autie says:


You have a right against self incrimination, but you don’t have a right to be read a Miranda warning.

Miranda v. Arizona would beg to differ because case law is still law, ignoramus. Or would you like to be in the position where you talk about the ounce of marijuana in your home, only to have to try and get that evidence excluded as ‘fruit of the poisonous tree’ in front of an unsympathetic judge?

Rocky says:


The point of a Miranda reading was twofold: Remind suspects that they have 5A rights AND remind the police of the same. It was never about suing for “cash and prizes”, but you are of course free to just ignore that your and other peoples rights are being trampled by the police if you wish – but don’t expect anything good to come out of it.

That One Guy (profile) says:

If you wouldn't tell it to your worst enemy..

Well it’s consistent I suppose, doesn’t do you much good to be told your rights if the courts don’t care about them to begin with so yay unintentional bit of honesty I guess?

On a more general note I really wish this didn’t need to be said again but apparently some people have to learn the hard way or still think the police are the Good Guys so…

When police or others in law enforcement ask you questions ask for a legal representative but other than that shut the hell up.

They are not your friends or on your side and for your own sake should be considered to be working against you so the default assumption should always be that talking to them is going to come back to bite you in the ass, whether you are guilty or not.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

makes sure his horns are sharpened

How can SCOTUS keep issuing rulings?
We only have 8 and 3/5ths of a court.

Oh hey coach can now get the team to pray after the game.
“”The Constitution and the best of our traditions counsel mutual respect and tolerance, not censorship and suppression, for religious and nonreligious views alike.””

Unless of course they have a deeply held religious belief in calling for teh gays to be murdered.
Like all them books they took of the shelves…
Or denying people the right to learn about family planning & safer sex.

It was cute while it lasted, but pretty sure the nation is fscked.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Well Uncle Thomas has his cabin, so he’s all set.
He knows the tigers won’t eat his face, I mean forgetting to report your wife is making 700K for several years in a row is a common thing that just happens.
He’s now added Sullivan to his list of really bad things SCOTUS has done while throwing a fit that a wackjob group who demanded SCOTUS review of their denied lawsuit against SPLC for branding them a hate group.

In a nation that put a man with an IQ below 70 to death, I am struggling to understand why abortion is such a thing.

There is no legal reason to block it, beyond some monied interests demands that their religious beliefs must be adhered to by all.

If I hear 1 more we have to protect the unborn from unvaccinated wingnuts, I’m liable to scream.

Worst mother mortality rate in the world.
No free prenatal care, no free post natal care…

Its like they like the idea of having there be more babies, as long as it doesn’t cost them anything (and keeps an underclass they can feel better than).

We can’t force them to get a shot, that would have prevented needless deaths…
But they can force women to carry a fetus to term, no exceptions rape, incest, stillborn, could kill the mother…

Religious Freedom should never have forced all of us to be part of a death cult but here we are.

I look forward to people discovering that those old sodomy laws also covered oral sex…
imagine there’s no blowjobs…
You can say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one, when a politician gets a blowjob from his mistress, we can yeet his ass into the sun.
No to mention their poor wives when they find out their state has a limit on the number & types of sex toys you can own.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2

So you just overlooked the whole 3/5ths thing I started with?

Uncle Thomas might have been lazy on my part, but to do something with don’t stick your dick in crazy would have required my mind to work out he and ginni having the secks and then i’d vomit and it would be a whole messy thing to clean up.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

If I hear 1 more we have to protect the unborn from unvaccinated wingnuts, I’m liable to scream.

‘We must protect the unborn!’

‘Okay, here’s some basic actions you can take that-‘

‘Without it costing me anything or requiring me to change my life in the slightest! I care about the unborn, but I care about my personal finances and comfort way more.’

DBA Phillip Cross says:

Re: Re: Re:


Nevertheless, as this young man was in the eye of the law not a man but a thing, all these superior qualifications were subject to the control of a vulgar, narrow-minded, tyrannical master.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Chapter 2, Page 55– Uncle Clarence is no doubt feeling he has mastered the law now.

This reminds me of the George Carlin routine from 1996, which is making the rounds in the civilized world right now.

These conservatives will do anything for the unborn, but once your born…(holds up middle finger) you’re on your own!

mechtheist (profile) says:

What does it take to impeach a SCOTUS justice?

These recent effed up decisions are rife with factual errors, obvious bad logic, and justifications entirely derived from religious beliefs. No court can decree what is or isn’t true, it can’t define the workings of logic, and religious beliefs are unconstitutional as motivation for laws. Is there no way to get rid of these delusional pieces of shit?

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

The fact the vote was pretty much tied raises serious questions if there is a punishment for not upholding the oath to the Constitution.

They picked Trump over their oath of office, that should be disqualifying but they remain in office voting how Trump wants not how the people want their representatives to vote.

They are helping to lay the ground work to suppress the vote and the will of the people.

Lostinlodos (profile) says:


I have mixed feelings on this.

On one side: 5a and 6a cover this already as the foundational rights of our union republic.
You can be held accountable/found guilty even if ignorant to law. There is no mandate in law or constitution to tell a suspect/criminal about the first amendment.

On the other side we have the reality that most Americans know the constitutional text less than legal immigration applicants. Not knowing a fundamental right should not remove said right.

Where I agree fully with others here is ML has created an ATM out of police departments and governmental funds. And not always rightfully. Failure to make aware aware of, and violation of your rights, should squash a case. Not entitle you to public money.

One real reaction here is going to be cops not telling people their 5a/6a rights and many, many, cases being tossed, or overturned.
Another is going to be a whole bunch of poor people with could-care-less defenders going to jail.

And there’s always the moral aspect to this. Should a person who did the crime, and admitted they did the crime, and can be proven to have done the crime, get away with the crime simply for not knowing they didn’t need to, could have not have, confessed?

I’m torn on this one

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