The Supreme Court of the United States has recently ruled that criminal defendants who suffer violations of their Miranda rights and are acquitted cannot sue police who violated their rights. While this does not eradicate Miranda protections, it does mean that those who are acquitted of alleged crimes cannot get financial compensation for any harms they suffered as a result of Miranda violations. This decision is considered by advocates to be a major setback in holding the police accountable for violating the rights of criminal defendants.
What is This Case?
In the case of Vega v. Tekoh, the plaintiff is a man who was accused of sexually assaulting a patient at a hospital he worked at. Although he was ultimately acquitted of the crime by a jury, he was still coerced into signing a confession by police without first being given his Miranda warnings. He sued the police over this violation of his rights, seeking financial compensation for the harm he suffered as a result of the Miranda violations.
What Was the Issue Being Decided?
The fundamental issue being decided was whether people who were arrested for crimes, but ultimately acquitted of those crimes, have a legal right to seek compensation for violations of their Miranda rights. The law provides that people who face criminal charges can seek to have testimony (including statements and confessions) prevented from being used as evidence against them, if that testimony was obtained without first reading them their rights. However, the question is whether those who are acquitted of a crime after being the victim of Miranda violations can get monetary damages for the harm caused by those violations.
What Did the Court Rule?
In a 6-3 ruling, the Supreme Court ruled that the law does not provide any right to seek compensation for Miranda violations. While they do not argue that the police were correct in violating the defendant’s rights, they say the only remedy available for those violations is to have evidence obtained in violation of their rights excluded from evidence at trial. Thus, anyone who has their Miranda rights violated but does not get convicted of a crime is, effectively, out of luck.
How Does This Affect You?
The reason this decision is important is because it limits the ability of criminal defendants to seek justice for violations of their rights. While getting coerced testimony and false confessions thrown out is good, that does not make up for the harm that defendants suffer while they are fighting criminal charges. This is why it is essential to have effective legal counsel the moment you suspect you are facing a criminal inquiry, to limit the harm that police can do by violating your legal rights.
If you or someone you know has been arrested for a criminal offense, you will need legal counsel to help you preserve your rights and work to get the best possible outcome for your matter. A New York criminal defense lawyer, who is experienced in handling criminal cases of all sorts, can advise you of your legal rights and will fight for your best interests in court. If you or your loved one has been arrested, contact the Suffolk County criminal defense attorneys at McGuire, Peláez and Bennett at (631) 348-1702.