Supreme Court Determines Inmate Miranda Rights Not Violated In Lenawee County Sex Abuse Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has just ruled that an inmate’s Miranda rights were not violated by Lenawee County sheriff’s deputies when they questioned him in jail about a sex abuse case. In Howes v. Fields the Court evaluated whether an inmate must be read his Miranda rights before questioning the prisoner about other cases.

Here, Fields was in a Lenawee County jail for an unrelated misdemeanor offense. While in jail, the deputies decided to ask Fields questions about another cases involved the sexual abuse of a mentally disable teen. Fields confessed to the crime following seven hours of questioning.

The constitution affects every aspect of the criminal law process and guarantees several rights and privileges. Based on a 1966 case, Miranda v. Arizona, police are required to read suspects in custody a “Miranda warning” or their “Miranda rights.” A Miranda warning is given to ensure that those in custody are informed about and understand their fifth amendments right against self-incrimination and their right to obtain a lawyer. If you are under investigation for a crime, or have been arrested it is crucial to speak to an aggressive Michigan criminal defense attorney immediately to ensure your constitutional rights are protected and begin preparing your defense.
Here, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals determined that the guards violated Fields’ rights and that a Miranda warning was required. Taking prisoners outside the general population and questioning them about conduct that occurred outside of jail creates a setting where a Miranda warning was required. The 6th Circuit determined that police are required to read inmates their Miranda rights anytime they are isolated from other inmates and may be likely to incriminate themselves.


In a blow to prisoners’ rights, the Supreme Court disagreed. Justice Samuel Alito writing for the majority noted “there are a number of factors that go into determining if a suspect is in the type of custody setting where a Miranda warming is necessary, even inside a jail or prison. The record in this case reveals that respondent (Fields) was not taken into custody for Miranda purposes.”

However, in a strongly worded dissent Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor argued that this ruling diminishes prisoner’s rights noting “Today, for people already in prison, the Court finds it adequate for the police to say: ‘You are free to terminate this interrogation and return to your cell.’ Such a statement is no substitute for one ensuring that an individual is aware of his rights.”

For more information about this case or if you are under investigation for any Michigan crime, contact the aggressive criminal defense law firm of Grabel & Associates to begin preparing your defense.

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