A violation of Miranda does not necessarily constitute a violation of the Constitution, and therefore such a violation does not constitute “the deprivation of [a] right . . . secured by the Constitution.” 42 U. S. C. §1983.
Vega v. Tekoh
No. 21 – 499
U.S. Supreme Court
June 23, 2022
In March 2014, Mr. Terrance Tekoh was working as a certified nursing assistant at a Los Angeles medical center. When a female patient accused him of sexually assaulting her, the hospital staff reported the accusation to the Los Angeles County Sheriff ’s Department, and Deputy Carlos Vega responded. Dep. Vega questioned Mr. Tekoh at length in the hospital, and Mr. Tekoh eventually provided a written statement apologizing for inappropriately touching the patient’s genitals. The parties dispute whether Dep. Vega used coercive investigatory techniques to extract the statement, but it is undisputed that he never informed Mr. Tekoh of his rights under Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U. S. 436 (1966), which held that during a custodial interrogation police officers must inform a suspect that “he has the right to remain silent, that anything he says can be used against him in a court of law, that he has the right to the presence of an attorney, and that if he cannot afford an attorney one will be appointed for him prior to any questioning.” Id., at 479.
Mr. Tekoh was arrested and charged in California state court with unlawful sexual penetration. At Mr. Tekoh’s first trial, the judge held that Miranda had not been violated because Mr. Tekoh was not in custody when he provided the statement, but the trial resulted in a mistrial. When Mr. Tekoh was retried, a second judge again denied his request to exclude the confession. This trial resulted in acquittal, and Mr. Tekoh then brought this action under 42 U. S. C. §1983 against Dep. Vega and several other defendants seeking damages for alleged violations of his constitutional rights, including his Fifth Amendment right against compelled self-incrimination.
When this §1983 case was first tried, the jury returned a verdict in favor of Dep. Vega, but the judge concluded that he had given an improper jury instruction and thus granted a new trial. Before the second trial, Mr. Tekoh asked the court to instruct the jury that it was required to find that Dep. Vega violated the Fifth Amendment right against compelled self- incrimination if it determined that he took a statement from Mr. Tekoh in violation of Miranda and that the statement was then improperly used against Mr. Tekoh at his criminal trial. The District Court declined, reasoning that Miranda established a prophylactic rule and that such a rule could not alone provide a ground for §1983 liability. Instead, the jury was asked to decide whether Mr. Tekoh’s Fifth Amendment right had been violated. The court instructed the jury to determine, based on “the totality of all the surrounding circumstances,” whether Mr. Tekoh’s statement had been “improperly coerced or compelled,” and the court explained that “[a] confession is improperly coerced or compelled . . . if a police officer uses physical or psychological force or threats not permitted by law to undermine a person’s ability to exercise his or her free will.” The jury found in Dep. Vega’s favor, and Mr. Tekoh appealed.
A Ninth Circuit panel reversed, holding that the “use of an un-Mirandized statement against a defendant in a criminal proceeding violates the Fifth Amendment and may support a §1983 claim” against the officer who obtained the statement. Tekoh v. County of Los Angeles, 985 F. 3d 713, 722 (2021). The panel acknowledged that this Court has repeatedly said that Miranda adopted prophylactic rules designed to protect against constitutional violations and that the decision did not hold that the contravention of those rules necessarily constitutes a constitutional violation. But the panel thought that our decision in Dickerson v. United States, 530 U. S. 428 (2000), “made clear that the right of a criminal defendant against having an un-Mirandized statement introduced in the prosecution’s case in chief is indeed a right secured by the Constitution.” 985 F. 3d, at 720. Therefore, the panel concluded that Mr. Tekoh could establish a violation of his Fifth Amendment right against compelled self-incrimination simply by showing that Miranda had been violated. The panel thus remanded the case for a new trial.
Dep. Vega’s petition for rehearing en banc was denied, but Judge Bumatay, joined by six other judges, filed a dissent from the denial of rehearing. Tekoh v. County of Los Angeles, 997 F. 3d 1260, 1261, 1264–1272 (CA9 2021). We then granted certiorari. 595 U. S. ___ (2022).
In this case, the Ninth Circuit [incorrectly] held and Mr. Tekoh now argues … that a violation of Miranda constitutes a violation of the Fifth Amendment right against compelled self-incrimination, but that is wrong. Miranda itself and our subsequent cases make clear that Miranda imposed a set of prophylactic rules. Those rules, to be sure, are “constitutionally based,” Dickerson, 530 U. S., at 440, but they are prophylactic rules nonetheless … At no point in the opinion did the Court state that a violation of its new rules constituted a violation of the Fifth Amendment right against compelled self-incrimination. Instead, it claimed only that those rules were needed to safeguard that right during custodial interrogation … What all this boils down to is basically as follows. The Miranda rules are prophylactic rules that the Court found to be necessary to protect the Fifth Amendment right against compelled self-incrimination. In that sense, Miranda was a “constitutional decision” and it adopted a “constitutional rule” because the decision was based on the Court’s judgment about what is required to safeguard that constitutional right … In sum, a violation of Miranda does not necessarily constitute a violation of the Constitution, and therefore such a violation does not constitute “the deprivation of [a] right . . . secured by the Constitution.” 42 U. S. C. §1983.
Because a violation of Miranda is not itself a violation of the Fifth Amendment, and because we see no justification for expanding Miranda to confer a right to sue under §1983, the judgment of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is reversed.
Information for this article was obtained from Vega v. Tekoh, No. 21 – 499.
This case was issued by the U.S. Supreme Court and is binding in the entire U.S.A. … to include California.
- If a law enforcement officer commits a Miranda violation that officer cannot be successfully sued under the federal law Civil Action for Deprivation of Rights 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
- What is most interesting in this case that the U.S. Supreme short shrifts, is that two different trial judges determined that Los Angeles Deputy Carlos Vega did not commit a Miranda Law enforcement officers are required to provide a Miranda warning if 1) The suspect is in custody and 2) The officer interrogates the suspect see Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U. S. 436 (1966). For more information see Miranda – Both a Noun and a Verb. In this case Mr. Tekoh was questioned at the hospital where the alleged sexual assault occurred. The two trial court judges determined that Mr. Tekoh was not in custody so there was no Miranda violation. Undeterred Mr. Tekoh desired compensation for a Miranda violation, even though it did not occur, so he sued the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department which led to this decision. Ultimately, Mr. Tekoh will have to find financial security in another pursuit.
- The legal analysis in this case questions if a law enforcement violates Miranda does that violate the Fifth Amendment. The U.S. Supreme Court in a six to three decision along ideological lines, held it does not. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals gets overturned more often than a Cirque du Soleil performer!
- How does this impact law enforcement officers moving forward on Mirandizing suspects? It does not. Law enforcement should continue to Mirandize a suspect if he is in custody and the officer interrogates him.
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Don’t let your training fail you!
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