Debate over SCOTUS ruling said to nullify Miranda rights, and jeopardize the 5th Amendment

The Supreme Court is facing scrutiny for a ruling made Thursday in which it took a knife to some of the American people’s Miranda rights ostensibly protected by the Fifth Amendment.

Specifically, a ruling written by Justice Samuel Alito made it so that if a police officer ever interrogates you without informing you of your Miranda right to remain silent, you may no longer sue said officer in civil court.

The ruling in Vega v. Tekoh stems from a sexual assault investigation that occurred at a Los Angeles medical center in 2014.

Terence Tekoh, the plaintiff, claimed in civil court that he was working as a Certified Nursing Assistant at the medical center when Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy Carlos Vega pulled him aside and intimidated him into signing a confession that he’d molested a patient.

“Vega threatened Tekoh with violence, flashing his gun. He threatened Tekoh, an immigrant, that he and his family members would face deportation to the country they had fled in fear of persecution, and called him a racial slur,” the American Civil Liberties Union notes, citing Tekoh’s court testimony.

“[A]ccording to Tekoh, Vega would not permit him to leave the room, and ignored Tekoh’s pleas to see a lawyer or talk to his coworkers and supervisors. Tekoh ultimately extracted a false letter of apology from Vega that he dictated to him.”

This allegedly “false letter of apology” was later used in court against Tekoah after “a judge determined that his Miranda rights weren’t violated because he wasn’t in custody when he confessed,” according to Reason magazine.

However, even with this piece of evidence, the case ended with a mistrial the first time around and with a not guilty verdict the same time.

Following the not guilty verdict, Tekoh sued Vega on the grounds that he’d violated his Fifth Amendment rights.

The case then slowly made its way to the Supreme Court, where on Thursday a 6-3 majority ruled that his self-incrimination doesn’t in fact count as a violation of the Fifth Amendment.

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. For one thing, it is easy to imagine many situations in which an un-Mirandized suspect in custody may make self-incriminating statements without any hint of compulsion,” Alito’s ruling reads.

“In addition, the warnings that the Court required included components, such as notification of the right to have retained or appointed counsel present during questioning, that do not concern self-incrimination per se but are instead plainly designed to safeguard that right. And the same is true of Miranda’s detailed rules about the waiver of the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney.”

In other words, and according to a summary from Reason magazine, “the purpose of Miranda is to serve as a safeguard against compelled self-incrimination by police or prosecutors. It was not intended to establish that it was inherently a Fifth Amendment violation if somebody voluntarily confesses or self-incriminates himself or herself prior to or absent of a Miranda warning.”

It appears, for all intents and purposes, that the court didn’t believe that Tekoh was forced/compelled to write a confession. And therefore, they argued, the cop didn’t violate Tekoh’s Fifth Amendment rights.

Reason magazine stresses, however, that this rule doesn’t entirely gut Americans’ Miranda rights, which are based on the landmark Miranda v. Arizona case.

“[T]he 1966 Supreme Court ruling … determined that it’s a violation of a suspect’s Fifth Amendment rights for police to interrogate him or her about a crime without informing them they have the right to remain silent and the right to request an attorney.”

This still remains true. But thanks to Thursday’s ruling, if when someone’s Miranda rights after violated, the victim can’t “file a civil action lawsuit against the police officer or law enforcement agency and seek redress or damages.”

The ruling has triggered criticism from some:

But others have responded that it was perfectly fair:

The ruling came on the same day that the high court struck down a draconian New York law that had severely restricted who’s allowed to carry a concealed firearm in public.


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Vivek Saxena


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