“You have the right to remain silent” is a famous phrase — but apparently not a constitutionally protected one.
In 1966, the Supreme Court established a constitutional right that people being arrested or interrogated by police be informed of their rights, known as the Miranda warning. More than half a century later, the Court is now chipping away at that requirement. In a 6-3 decision handed down by the Supreme Court on Thursday, the conservative majority ruled that Americans do not have the right to sue for a violation of their civil rights if police fail to provide a Miranda warning.
The decision in Vega v. Tekoh, written by Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, determined “a violation of Miranda is not itself a violation of the Fifth Amendment,” the statute that protects people against self-incrimination. That means, in the conservative justices’ view, a person cannot sue a police officer for failing to read them the Miranda warning and inform them of their right to remain silent — even if what they say is used as evidence against them in court.
The decision puts a dent in one of the fundamental protections of a constitutional right. If a person is not informed of their rights, they will still be able to request that evidence — including self-incriminating statements — be suppressed and excluded from their trial. But they will no longer be able to seek damages that result from a failure to be informed of their rights. This means there are essentially no repercussions for police who fail to read someone their Miranda rights.
The three liberal justices on the court opposed the majority’s opinion, with Justice Elena Kagan warning in her dissent that the court is doing harm to a constitutional right. She noted that a defendant who is “wrongly convicted and spends years in prison” will no longer have any remedy for that harm.
You still have the right to remain silent. It’s just the police now have the right to remain silent too instead of delivering you your rights.