Ruling Focuses on Miranda Missteps

© The Associated Press

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Police officers who pressure suspects into talking even after they've been advised of their ``right to remain silent'' can be sued for doing so, a federal appeals court has ruled. 

The decision, announced Monday by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, came in a lawsuit brought against the police departments of Los Angeles and nearby Santa Monica that alleged California police agencies routinely train officers to question suspects outside their Miranda rights. 

The familiar warnings, enacted after a 1966 Supreme Court ruling, tells suspects of a right to remain silent and to have an attorney present during any questioning. They also are told that anything they say may be used against them in court and if they can't afford a lawyer, one will be appointed for them. 

Officers argued they were immune from a lawsuit because they were acting according to training. The police departments contended Miranda rights aren't constitutionally derived. 

The judges disagreed, saying officers who use such tactics ``must expect to have to defend themselves in civil actions,'' and said Miranda rights stem from the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. 

The ruling sets the stage for a trial in district court. 

The lawsuit involves murder suspects in two unrelated cases who were coaxed into giving confessions without lawyers present even after invoking their Miranda rights. 

The men were told that things would go badly for them if they continued to insist on having attorneys present. They were also told that what they said to detectives could not be used against them in court. 

However, in one case, the incriminating statement was used to contradict the defendant's testimony at trial. In the second case, it was used at sentencing. 

The lawsuit is designed to stop the questioning practice, and does not seek to overturn the convictions. It seeks only token damages. 

Cases in the News
How the System Works
Truth in Justice