The Supreme Court’s decision to shield police officers from prosecution for failing to issue a Miranda warning has been denounced by lawmakers and legal experts.
The court’s conservative justices, in a 6-3 decision on Thursday, blocked charges against officers who fail to recite Miranda’s warning, which begins with the familiar phrase “You have the right to remain silent,” and also includes language on constitutional protections against self-incrimination. The decision comes amid other recent rulings, including the controversial scrapping of a 100-year-old gun law.
Miranda rights, which require police to inform individuals of certain rights before questioning, were established following the 1966 Supreme Court ruling Miranda v. Arizona.
“A violation of Miranda does not necessarily constitute a violation of the Constitution, and therefore such a violation does not constitute ‘deprivation of [a] right . . . guaranteed by the Constitution,” conservative Justice Samuel Alito wrote in the majority opinionwhich blocked prosecution of police officers under a civil rights law known as Section 1983.
While Thursday’s decision did not block additional consequences for failing to read a warning from Miranda, such as statements made without warning are often ruled inadmissible in court, a number of political figures and legal experts prominent and largely left-leaning quickly took to social media to blast the decision.
“Another day, another horrible set of politically motivated opinions from the GOP-filled Supreme Court,” tweeted Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan. “Miranda’s rights hang by a thread as a 110-year-old gun control law is struck down. While awaiting Roe’s death. #ExpandTheCourt, or will we just surrender?”
“From abortion rights, to Miranda rights, to gun violence prevention, this far-right Supreme Court continues to disappoint the people,” tweeted Representative Ayanna Pressley, Democrat of Massachusetts and member of Tlaib’s “Squad.”
“This morning, SCOTUS destroyed our Miranda rights and invalidated a New York law requiring concealment and carry of a firearm,” tweeted Democratic Representative Jamaal Bowman of New York. “Only 6 people are destroying our democracy.”
“#GOP hates militant judges until #SCOTUS starts torturing logic and precedent to make guns readily available, eviscerate Miranda’s rights and deny women’s bodily autonomy,” tweeted Emily Kinkead, Democratic Member of the Pennsylvania State House. “It doesn’t make sense until you realize that ‘originalism’ is about restoring the original masters – cis/het white men.”
Steven Drizin, professor at Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law, tweeted that the decision gave police “less incentive to read suspects’ rights” and warned that a footnote in Alito’s opinion “lays the groundwork to nullify Miranda altogether”.
“Miranda has been weak for a long time, thanks to decades of decisions that have reduced her,” tweeted law professor Laura Nirider, Drizin’s colleague and co-director of the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University School of Law. “And now it’s even weaker – the police now have less incentive to read Miranda’s rights.”
“And @sdrizin is right: footnote 5 suggests that the Court might want to strike down Miranda altogether,” she added.
Brett Max Kaufman, senior counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), said in a statement that the decision “widens the gap between the guarantees contained in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and the ability of the people to hold the government officials responsible for violating them.”
Kaufman vowed that the ACLU would “continue to fight to ensure that our country upholds the guarantees of the Constitution.”
Newsweek has reached out to attorney and legal analyst Laura Coates for comment.