WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Thursday shielded police from being sued by suspects for failing to provide well-known Miranda warnings.
Ruling in a Los Angeles case called Vega vs. Tekoh, the justices by a 6-3 vote said that the only remedy for a Miranda violation is to block the use in court of a suspect’s incriminating comments.
The court’s conservative majority described the Miranda warnings as a set of guidelines that protect the right against self-incrimination. As such, the warnings, including the “right to remain silent,” are not constitutional rights in themselves that could result in a separate action against the police.
But Miranda warnings remain intact. For a confession to be used in court, the suspect must be warned in advance that he has a right to remain silent and that anything he says may be used against him court, they said.
In dissent, the liberal justices said the ruling weakens the Miranda rights, and it may encourage the police to use pressure tactics against people they have taken into custody.
In past rulings, the court said that evidence revealed by a suspect may be used against him court, even if no Miranda warnings were given.
In one such case from 2004, a man refused to talk to police who came to his house, but he agreed to show them where his gun was hidden. The firearm was then used to convict him of the crime of being a felon in possession of a gun.
At times in recent decades, police officers in California have been trained to continue questioning people who are held in custody, even if they have invoked their right to remain silent. Sometimes, these people reveal crucial details about a crime or about their involvement.
The case before the court began in 2014 when Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy Carlos Vega was called to County-USC Medical Center to investigate a patient’s complaint that an orderly had sexually assaulted her. The officer said nurses told him that Terence Tekoh had transported the heavily sedated patient to her room.
Vega said he took Tekoh to a private room to talk, and the orderly admitted he had “made a mistake” and agreed to write out a full confession.