While it wasn’t the U.S. Supreme Court’s most controversial ruling last month, one decision did raise concerns and cause some confusion. Some media outlets portrayed it as chipping away at Miranda rights.
So did it? What does the decision mean for anyone who is detained, questioned and/or arrested? Let’s look at the case the court ruled on and what the 6-3 decision means for anyone who is questioned by law enforcement.
The case before the Supreme Court
The case involved a former hospital employee who sued a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department deputy. The man confessed to sexually assaulting an incapacitated patient when he was questioned by the deputy. Since he hadn’t yet been arrested, it was allowed as evidence in his trial even though he hadn’t been read his Miranda rights when he confessed.
The man, however, claimed the deputy threatened to have his family deported, so his confession was coerced and therefore shouldn’t be used against him. The jury apparently agreed and found him not guilty, despite his confession. He sued the deputy personally for violating his constitutional rights. The deputy fought the lawsuit all the way to the Supreme Court.
What the ruling means for law enforcement officers’ responsibility for their actions
Although people are allowed to sue government employees, the majority of the justices determined that allowing such a suit could “saddle police departments nationwide with extraordinary burdens in connection with lawful and appropriate investigative work.”
The court’s decision could have far-reaching implications for those who want to take civil legal action against a law enforcement officer for violating their rights. That could potentially make some officers less concerned with not giving people the “Miranda warning” when they are required to.
That’s why it’s crucial to know that officers are required to advise people of their Miranda rights prior to taking them into custody and interrogating them. However, if someone incriminates themselves prior to that, their words can still be used as evidence against them – unless threats or coercion are involved.
It’s essential not to submit to any questioning (short of providing identification), no matter how friendly and informal it may feel, without getting an attorney. If you believe your rights were violated during your arrest, let your attorney know so that they can work to ensure that evidence obtained illegally isn’t used against you.