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Police Can’t Be Sued Over Miranda Warnings, Justices Rule (1)

June 23, 2022, 2:37 PMUpdated: June 23, 2022, 4:04 PM

Police can’t be sued for failing to read criminal defendants their Miranda warnings, the US Supreme Court ruled.

In a 6-3 decision Thursday which broke along ideological lines, the court said its landmark ruling in Miranda v. Arizona doesn’t provide a basis for criminal defendants to bring civil rights suits against police for not providing these warnings against self-incrimination.

Miranda is one of several 1960s criminal justice rulings long-criticized by conservatives. Important to the conservative majority, was the distinction between constitutional violations and “prophylactic rules” meant to gaurd against constitutional violations.

Because claims under 42 U.S.C. §1983—the civil rights statute at issue in the case—can only be brought when there’s been a “deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws,” merely preventative rules don’t count, Justice Samuel Alito wrote for the court.

He said Miranda warnings are meant to prevent improper police questioning and the use of statements obtained during such interrogations. A violation of the rules doesn’t itself run afoul of the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, Alito said.

“Those rules, to be sure, are ‘constitutionally based,’ but they are prophylactic rules nonetheless,” Alito said.

Writing in dissent, Justice Elena Kagan said the court’s ruling “prevents individuals from obtaining any redress when police violate their rights under Miranda.”

In a separate ruling Thursday, the justices allowed capital defendants to use 1983 claims to challenge the method of their executions.

The case is Vega v. Tekoh, U.S., 21-499.

(Updates with additional details from the ruling.)

To contact the reporters on this story: Jordan S. Rubin in Washington at jrubin@bloomberglaw.com; Lydia Wheeler in Washington at lwheeler@bloomberglaw.com; Kimberly Strawbridge Robinson in Washington at krobinson@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Tom P. Taylor at ttaylor@bloomberglaw.com; Seth Stern at sstern@bloomberglaw.com; John Crawley at jcrawley@bloomberglaw.com