The Supreme Court Did Nothing to Undermine the Fifth Amendment or Effect of the Miranda Warning – Opinion

Today provided the left with two significant opportunities to set themselves on fire (only in the most figurative and humane way, of course) and run out on Twitter screaming “Armageddon!”.

This was the case that attracted most attention. New York State Rifle and Pistol Association vs. Bruen. Justice Clarence Thomas suggested a new theory for understanding the Second Amendment. We might start with reading it. Maybe we should even look up big words that puzzle us, like “bear.” And then the courts should treat this Constitutional right according to the text. Read more on that decision at Supreme Court Rules You Can’t ‘Bear’ Arms Unless You Can Carry Them for Self-Defense.

The left was then forced to make a second, more difficult decision. Vega vs. Tekoh. California was where the case was filed. The decision was made by Justice Alito. There was a flood of responses, with pundit after pundit claiming that Miranda Warnings, which were so loved by crime-procedural TV dramas, were being treated in New York Planned Parenthood hospitals like babies.

That’s where it all began.

Tekoh worked as a nursing assistant in a Los Angeles hospital. 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 Vega responded. Vega questioned Tekoh at length in the hospital, and Tekoh eventually provided a written statement apologizing for inappropriately touching the patient’s genitals. The parties dispute whether Vega used coercive investigatory technique to extract the statement, but it is undisputed that he never informed 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 thepresence of an attorney, and that if he cannot afford an attorney one will be appointed for him prior to any questioning.” Id., at 479.

Tekoh was charged with unlawful sexual penetration in California state court. At Tekoh’s first trial, the judge held that Miranda had not been violated because Tekoh was not in custody when he provided the statement, but the trial resulted in a mistrial. Tekoh was then retried by another judge who denied Tekoh’s request to exempt the confession. This trial resulted in acquittal, and Tekoh then brought this action under 42 U. S. C. §1983 against Vegaand several other defendants seeking damages for alleged violations of his constitutional rights, including his Fifth Amendment right against compelled self-incrimination.

Deputy Vega questioned Tekoh regarding his role in the sex assault allegations against a patient. The result of that questioning was a written statement in which Tekoh copped to “inappropriate touching.” That statement was used against Tekoh at his trial. I apologize for interrupting to remind you how the whole thing could have been avoided.

Tekoh was ultimately acquitted. There are two takeaways here: First, Tekoh was acquitted; second, two different trial judges looked at Tekok’s complaint about the statement he gave to the police and found nothing amiss.

Tekoh however hears magic. cha-ching!!Sound of a civil right lawsuit against an agency that has very large pockets. Title 42 U. S. C. §1983 allows for civil lawsuits against officials who deprive people of their civil rights under color of authority.

Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress, except that in any action brought against a judicial officer for an act or omission taken in such officer’s judicial capacity, injunctive relief shall not be granted unless a declaratory decree was violated or declaratory relief was unavailable. For the purposes of this section, any Act of Congress applicable exclusively to the District of Columbia shall be considered to be a statute of the District of Columbia.

Deputy Vega was successful in a case that was ultimately declared a mistrial. He then won his subsequent trial. After the trial was overturned by the Ninth Circuit which sent the case back to be tried again with new rules. MirandaTekoh would be able to win the case. This resulted with the Supreme Court taking up the case. SCOTUSBlog provides a thorough write-up on the oral arguments, though it seems like the author may be chewing his baseboards or ruminating about the outcome.

What the court ruled was that violating the Fifth Amendment is a constitutional violation that will get you into court with a “§1983” claim, but the Miranda warning is not the Fifth Amendment. Furthermore, two separate trial judges admitted Tekoh’s voluntary statement into evidence knowing there was no Miranda warning. That, right there, should tell you that this case is really about expanding the scope of §1983 for litigation and has nothing to do with the Fifth Amendment.

Miranda is based on pragmatic judgement about the best way to prevent the Fifth Amendment right from compelled self incrimination being violated at trial. The suppression of Miranda violation statements and their application in other legal contexts serves this prophylactic purpose. Allowingthe victim of a Miranda violation to sue a police officer for damages under §1983 would have little additional deterrent value, and permitting such claims would cause many problems.

Allowing a claim like Tekoh’s would disserve “judicialeconomy,” Parklane Hosiery Co.439 U.S. 322, 326 (1979) by mandating a federal judge/jury to decide a factual issue (whether Tekoh had been in custody at the time of questioning), that was already decided by a court. This re-adjudication would not only be wasteful; it would undercut the “‘strong judicial policy against the creation of two conflicting resolutions’” based on the same set of facts. Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U. S. 477, 484 (1994). And it could produce “unnecessary friction” between the federal andstate court systems by requiring the federal court entertaining the §1983 claim to pass judgment on legal and factual issues already settled in state court. You can see Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U. S. 475, 490–491 (1973).

Allowing §1983 suits based on Miranda claims could also present many procedural issues, such as whether a federal court considering a §1983 claim would owe any deference to a trial court’s factual findings; whether forfeiture and plainerror rules carry over from the criminal trial; whether harmless-error rules apply; and whether civil damages are available in instances where the unwarned statement had no impact on the outcome of the criminal case.

In short: MirandaThis is how it’s been since its inception. That is the truth.

 

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