The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) Justices are hearing arguments Wednesday in a Los Angeles case that could decide a Fifth Amendment related case over whether a person accused of a crime can seek relief if a law enforcement officer fails to recite Miranda warnings.

The Justices heard arguments in the Vega v. Tekoh, the case which call to question to whether a person may state a claim for relief against law enforcement officers “simply on officers’ failure to provide the warnings prescribed” in Miranda v. Arizona, the landmark 1966 decision that protects the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

The case, arising from a 2014 confrontation from a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputy Carlos Vega and Terence Tekoh, a hospital nursing assistance, who was accused of sexually assaulting a patient. Vega took Tekoh to a private room to talk but did not advise Tekoh of his Miranda rights, including a notice of one’s right against self-incrimination while in police custody. The defendant was eventually found not guilty by a jury despite having his un-Mirandized statement introduced in the prosecution’s case.

This case seeks to answer for the first time whether officers who don’t provide a Miranda warning can be sued for violating a suspect’s constitutional rights. Such lawsuits would be in addition to having any coerced confessions thrown out of court.

During arguments, a majority of the Justices appeared skeptical of Tekoh’s counsel. Both Chief Justice John Roberts and justice Amy Coney Barrett highlighted the 2000 case of Dickerson v. United States, saying that “while the court has upheld Miranda on several occasions, a violation of Miranda doesn’t violate anyone’s constitutional rights.”

The Justice Department sided with Vega on Wednesday, challenging the plaintiff’s point that Miranda was a constitutional rule. In essence, since the Constitution does not mention the 1966 decision explicitly, it has become a “prophylactic” rule, according to the DOJ. 

“It isn’t a substantive right to receive the Miranda warnings themselves,” Assistant Solicitor General Vivek Suri said Wednesday. “A police office who fails to provide the Miranda warning accordingly doesn’t himself violate the constitutional right.”

Justice Clarence Thomas offered a hypothetical to Suri, asking what happens in a situation if “A police officers lies?”

“Taking that as a hypothetical, however, we would say that there is no Miranda liability because we don’t see how the causation problem can be solved without creating a witness immunity problem in its place,” Suri replied.

Citing Dickerson, Barrett also said the case did not ever use the word “constitutional right,” adding that “It seemed very carefully worded to say ‘constitutional rule’ or ‘constitutionally requires.'”

The high court has been subject to criticism in recent years over rulings in which the Justices offered law enforcement officers “qualified immunity” from being litigated for infringing on the rights of those who are arrested.

A decision in the case review Wednesday is expected by the end of the present high court session in June.

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9 months ago

good 1

9 months ago

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