You’ve heard Miranda warnings before, in real-life arrests, in movies and in crime procedurals: “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.” But the Supreme Court last week ruled in a 6-3 decision along ideological lines that those ubiquitous words might not be mandatory, a concerning prospect for defense attorneys and advocates. Daniel Medwed, GBH News legal analyst and Northeastern University law professor, joined GBH’s Morning Edition hosts Jeremy Siegel and Paris Alston to explain the case. This transcript has been edited for clarity and length.

Jeremy Siegel: The Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade continues to send shockwaves across the country. It's the most significant of several major Supreme Court rulings this term, and more are on the way.

Paris Alston: Another ruling that represents the current ideological shift of the court is its recent opinion on Miranda warnings and the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination.

Before we delve into the recent Supreme Court case, how about providing us a little bit of context? What is the constitutional basis for Miranda rights and when must those warnings be provided?

Daniel Medwed: The whole concept of the Miranda warnings derives from a 1966 case, Miranda v. Arizona, in which the Supreme Court held that prior to what's called a custodial interrogation, the police must provide suspects with certain warnings. And we're all familiar with them from TV and movies, that you have the right to remain silent, that anything you say can and may be used against you in a court of law, and that you have a right to a lawyer.

Now, Miranda has long been treated as what's known as a prophylactic rule. It's designed to protect a downstream constitutional right, the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination. And here's how it works: let's say you provide a coerced statement to the police. That statement then could be introduced against you at trial as an exception to the hearsay ban. That would therefore violate your Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination. That's sort of an overview.

Siegel: I want to go back to a term that you mentioned earlier there. You said 'custodial interrogation.' I have a few questions about that. First, you only have a right to Miranda warnings during a custodial interrogation?

Medwed: That's right.

"It's designed to protect a downstream constitutional right, the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination."

Siegel: What is a custodial interrogation? When I hear that, I sort of imagine someone in an interrogation room like we see on TV. Do you have to be under arrest at a police station, being questioned by law enforcement?

Medwed: Not necessarily. The one-way mirror, the donuts, the coffee — it doesn't have to be that situation. The term custody is what's known as a facts and circumstances analysis. It's not a bright line rule. The test that the courts apply is whether a reasonable person would feel free to leave under the circumstances. So what does that mean? It means that even out on the street, you might be in custody if, say, you're in handcuffs. Whereas if you're in a police station, you might not be in custody if the door is open or if you showed up voluntarily. It's a very fact-specific concept.

Second, the idea of interrogation in this realm is much broader than a lot of people would think. It not only encompasses explicit questioning, like 'Where were you on the night of June 28th?' But also declarative statements that are the functional equivalent of a question: 'You must be angry at your business partner.' So custodial interrogation is a limitation on Miranda.

Alston: What was the issue in the case this term?

Medwed: This case, Vega v. Tekoh, concerned a very important but seemingly somewhat technical aspect of Miranda: May a Miranda violation later supply the basis for a civil lawsuit under a federal civil rights statute known as Section 1983. Here's what happened: There was a report of a sexual assault at a medical facility in Los Angeles. A deputy sheriff named Carlos Vega then interrogated the prime suspect, an employee of the facility named Terence Tekoh.

But Vega did not supply Miranda warnings, and Tekoh confessed. He provided a written statement saying that he inappropriately touched a patient. Fast forward to trial. Tekoh is tried for several crimes. And his statement to Vega is used against him in court. However, he's acquitted. He's absolutely acquitted. But Tekoh is upset. So he filed a civil rights lawsuit against Vega, saying that this Miranda violation violated his constitutional rights and he should get compensation.

Siegel: How did the court rule on this?

Medwed: The court ruled that technically a Miranda violation isn't a direct constitutional violation. Because it's this prophylactic rule that protects the constitutional rights under the Fifth Amendment down the road, it is not technically treated as a direct violation. In other words, no recovery for Tekoh and a bad decision for plaintiffs in the future.

Alston: We talked about how the court is issuing a lot of major rulings this term impacting Miranda rights, the constitutional right to abortion, restrictions on carrying firearms and other things. How are you making sense of what these rulings mean for our future legal landscape?

Medwed: That's a great question. I don't know if it's making sense to me except for politics. I'm not saying anything new, but it feels as though the court has become more partisan than it ever has. And that's very disheartening, I think, for all of us, but especially for people who are in the legal trenches who are watching these cases. They're thinking that the decisions are going to be really principled, and then they come down strictly along partisan lines.