Published on: Thursday, June 23, 2022

There is a legal maxim that first year law students learn—for every right, there is a remedy; where there is no remedy, there is no right.  William Blackstone said it this way: "It is a settled and invariable principle in the laws of England, that every right when with-held must have a remedy, and every injury its proper redress."

Today, the Supreme Court limited federal legal remedies for violations of Miranda rights. In Vega v. Tekoh, No. 21-499 (June 23, 2022), a 6-to-3 divided Supreme Court held a violation of the Miranda rules does not provide a basis for a § 1983 claim. Justice Alito delivered the opinion for the court, joined by Chief Justice Roberts, and Justices Thomas, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Barrett.  Justice Kagan dissented, joined by Justices Breyer and Sotomayor.

Reversing the Ninth Circuit, Justice Alito’s majority opinion starts and ends this way:

This case presents the question whether a plaintiff may sue a police officer under Rev. Stat. §1979, 42 U.S.C. §1983, based on the allegedly improper admission of an “unMirandized”1 statement in a criminal prosecution. The case arose out of the interrogation of respondent, Terence Tekoh, by petitioner, Los Angeles County Sheriff ’s Deputy Carlos Vega. Deputy Vega questioned Tekoh at his place of employment and did not give him a Miranda warning. Tekoh was prosecuted, and his confession was admitted into evidence, but the jury returned a verdict of not guilty. Tekoh then sued Vega under §1983, and the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that the use of Tekoh’s un-Mirandized statement provided a valid basis for a §1983 claim against Vega. We now reject this extension of our Miranda case law.


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 Court of Appeals is reversed, and the case is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Justice Kagain's dissent, joined by Justices Breyer and Sotomayor, begins like this: 

The Court’s decision in Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U. S. 436 (1966), affords well-known protections to suspects who are interrogated by police while in custody. Those protections derive from the Constitution: Dickerson v. United States tells us in no uncertain terms that Miranda is a “constitutional rule.” 530 U. S. 428, 444 (2000). And that rule grants a corresponding right: If police fail to provide the Miranda warnings to a suspect before interrogating him, then he is generally entitled to have any resulting confession excluded from his trial. See 384 U. S., at 478–479. From those facts, only one conclusion can follow—that Miranda’s protections are a “right[]” “secured by the Constitution” under the federal civil rights statute. Rev. Stat. §1979, 42 U. S. C. §1983. Yet the Court today says otherwise. It holds that Miranda is not a constitutional right enforceable through a §1983 suit. And so it prevents individuals from obtaining any redress when police violate their rights under Miranda. I respectfully dissent.

The opinion in Tekoh is here; oral argument here; and mertis briefing here.