SCOTUS Says You Can’t Sue the Cops for Violating Your Miranda Rights

A 6–3 ruling undermines attempts to hold police accountable for misconduct.

The Supreme Court ruled today, 6–3, that if a police officer fails to inform you of your right to remain silent and avoid self-incrimination when you’re suspected of a crime, you can’t sue under federal law as a violation of your civil rights.

To be clear, the Court isn’t overturning Miranda v. Arizona, the 1966 Supreme Court ruling that 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. But what the Court ruled today is that if and when this right is violated, people can’t turn to Section 1983 of the U.S. code and file a civil action lawsuit against the police officer or law enforcement agency and seek redress or damages.

Today’s ruling, Vega v. Tekoh, involved an investigation of sexual assault at a Los Angeles medical center in 2014. Terence Tekoh worked at the medical center and was interrogated by L.A. County Deputy Carlos Vega. Vega did not tell Tekoh about his Miranda rights and extracted a written confession. This confession was admitted into evidence in court, and a judge determined that his Miranda rights weren’t violated because he wasn’t in custody when he confessed. Even so, the first case ended in a mistrial, and then Tekoh was ultimately found not guilty in a second trial. Tekoh then sued using Section 1983 against Vega and others seeking damages for the violation of his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. The case wound its way all the way up to the Supreme Court to hear in April. The American Civil Liberties Union and the Cato Institute together submitted an amicus brief to the Court supporting the position that Vega could be held liable.