Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Supreme Court protects police from prosecution for ignoring Miranda warnings

On Thursday, the Supreme Court protected police from prosecution by the suspect for failing to provide the well-known Miranda warning.

In a Los Angeles case called Vega vs. Tekoh, the judge voted 6-3 that the only remedy for Miranda’s violations was to prevent the use of the suspect’s incriminating comments in court.

The court’s conservative majority described Miranda’s warning as a set of guidelines protecting rights from self-incrimination. Therefore, warnings, including the “right to remain silent,” are not constitutional rights per se and could lead to separate action against police.

But Miranda’s warning remained the same. To use a confession in court, they said, the suspect must be warned in advance that he has the right to remain silent and that anything he says could be used against him by the court.

The dissenting liberal justices said the ruling weakened Miranda’s rights and could encourage police to use pressure tactics against those they detained.

In past rulings, the court has said the evidence revealed by the suspect could be used against him by the court, even without warning from Miranda.

In one such case in 2004, a man refused to speak to police officers who came to his home, but he agreed to show them where his gun was hidden. The firearm was then used to convict him of a felony possession of a firearm.

In recent decades, police in California have sometimes been trained to continue questioning detainees even when they exercised their right to remain silent. Sometimes these individuals reveal important details about the crime or their involvement.

The court case began in 2014, when Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy Carlos Vega was subpoenaed to USC County Medical Center to investigate a patient’s complaint that a nurse sexually assaulted her . The official said the nurse told him that Terence Turco had sent the severely sedated patient to her room.

Vega said he took Tekoh to a private room to talk, and the orderly admitted he “made a mistake” and agreed to write a full confession.

Tekoh tells a very different story. He described the hour-long confrontation. He said the deputy closed the door, accusing him of groping the patient and falsely claiming the abuse had been recorded on video.

Tekoh said he asked to speak to a lawyer, but his deputy refused, preventing him from leaving and dictating a confession that he had to write and sign.

Tekoh was charged with sex crimes and his confession was used as evidence at his trial. Even so, a high court jury found him not guilty.

The officers then sued Vega in federal court, accusing the deputy of violating his rights by not informing him of his rights and forcing him to plead guilty.

A federal judge said Tekoh must prove the confession was coerced because the deputy’s failure to warn Miranda alone did not violate his right against self-incrimination. Civil jury verdicts Officer Vega.

Tekoh’s lawyers appealed, citing a 2000 Supreme Court decision by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist that said Miranda’s ruling was a constitutional ruling that Congress could not overturn.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit agreed in a 3-0 decision. Justice Kim McLean Wardlaw said Rehnquist’s opinion “makes clear that the right of a criminal defendant to make an unmilanized statement in the prosecution’s main case is indeed a constitutionally guaranteed right.”

But the Supreme Court agreed in January to hear Vega’s appeal. He argued that while Miranda’s decision was designed to protect the right from self-incrimination, it “does not create a constitutional right in and of itself.” As a result, Vega and other police officers may not be charged for failing to warn Miranda, his attorney said.

Charles Weisselberg, a professor of law at the University of California, Berkeley, said he was concerned the decision would inspire police to pressure those who refused to speak.

“There will be no penalty for violating Miranda in this way,” he said. “There will be zero incentives for officials to stop inquiries.”

US News.

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