The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday protected police from the risk of monetary damages for failing to notify criminal suspects of their rights prior to obtaining evidence that was later used against them in court, siding with a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy.
The judges ruled 6-3 in favor of Deputy Sheriff Carlos Vega, who has filed an appeal against a lower court decision reopening a lawsuit by a hospital employee named Terence Teco who accused the officer of violating his rights under the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protecting against self-incrimination . .
Teko was accused of sexually abusing a hospital patient after Vega obtained a written confession from him without first informing the suspect of his rights through the so-called Miranda Warnings. Teko was acquitted in court.
The court’s six conservatives formed a majority in the ruling written by Judge Samuel Alito, while its three liberal members disagreed.
The disputed rights were set out in the landmark 1966 Supreme Court ruling Miranda v. Arizona that under the Fifth Amendment, police must, among other things, advise criminal suspects of their right to remain silent and have a lawyer present during interrogations before doing any statements. can be used in criminal proceedings.
On appeal, Vega was supported by the administration of President Joe Biden.
The question was whether the use in court of testimony from suspects who did not receive a Miranda warning could lead to a civil action against the coroner under federal law that allows people to sue government officials for violating their constitutional rights. .
Vega in 2014 investigated a claim by a Los Angeles hospital patient that Tekoh, who worked as an orderly at the facility, inappropriately touched her while she was incapacitated in a hospital bed. Vega said that Teko voluntarily gave a written confession, although he was not arrested or taken into custody.
Teko disputes Vega’s version of events and claims that he was interrogated by Vega, who forced him to make a false confession.
Teko was arrested and charged with sexual assault in state court. His damning testimony was admitted into evidence during the trial, but the jury acquitted him. Tekoh then sued Vega in federal court, accusing the officer of violating his Fifth Amendment rights by extracting an incriminating statement without Miranda’s warning, resulting in it being used against him in a criminal prosecution.
The jury returned a verdict in favor of Vega, but in 2021 the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ordered a new trial in the officer’s liability case.
The Ninth Circuit found that the use of a statement made without Miranda’s warning against a defendant in a criminal trial violated the Fifth Amendment, giving rise to a claim for monetary damages to the officer who received the statement.
Appealing to the Supreme Court, Vega’s lawyers said in the lawsuit that the 9th Circuit’s decision threatens to “impose an extraordinary burden on police departments across the country in connection with lawful and proper investigative work.” Vega’s lawyers added that “virtually any police interaction with a criminal suspect” could lead to officers being held accountable.