A Breakdown of Miranda Rights

Miranda Rights are a set of constitutional rights that were created to protect the rights of individuals under custodial interrogation by the police in the United States. They were first outlined in the case Miranda v. Arizona (1966), in which the Supreme Court ruled that statements made in police interrogations may not be admitted as evidence unless the person being interrogated knowingly waived their rights after being informed of (and understanding) them. 

Prior to this ruling, police could interrogate individuals without telling them of the constitutional protections against self-incrimination and their right to an attorney. This left individuals vulnerable to coercive tactics used by the police during the interrogation process. As a result, police officers must read suspects their rights to ensure that they understand and choose to waive them before beginning questioning.

The recent Supreme Court ruling in Vega v. Tekoh, however, has brought Miranda rights back into the spotlight. The court ruled that a violation of the Miranda rules, or in this case, a failure to read them to a suspect, is not sufficient grounds for a suit against the officer who violated those rules.

This brings a very significant shift to how Miranda warnings are viewed in United States law. Prior to the ruling of Vega v. Tekoh, police officers would likely face a civil suit if they failed to remind a detained person of these rights. This ensured that in the event that a suspect is questioned without being reminded of these rights, they could pursue civil litigation and attempt to recover damages. Now, suspects have no ability to pursue a civil suit if their rights are infringed upon.

The Court’s ruling specified that the reason for the decision was because the fifth amendment protection against self-incrimination only applies if that evidence is then used in a trial against the suspect. As such, Miranda rights still apply in a criminal trial. If a suspect is questioned without being read their rights, their answers to the questioning remain inadmissible as evidence. Even so, many are claiming that the inability to seek remedy in this situation seems unjust. 

Regardless of which side of the issue you fall on, this is certainly an important decision that has the potential to affect anyone accused of a crime, innocent or otherwise. While we hope this is never a relevant issue for you, it’s always best to be informed of your rights – or in this case, a potential lack thereof. If you’re in need of an experienced attorney to help defend your rights, contact attorney John M. Totten today.

John M. Totten