What constitutes custody?
Is it possible that a person could NOT be in custody if the person is in PRISON? Unbelievably…YES!
The Supreme Court, in its infinite wisdom, has ruled that imprisonment does not necessarily constitute custody for purposes of triggering the right to Miranda warnings.
Howes v. Fields
In Howes v. Fields, Fields, a prisoner in a Michigan jail, was taken from his cell by a corrections officer to a conference room INSIDE THE PRISON where he was questioned for several hours by two sheriff’s deputies about a crime unrelated to his imprisonment. Fields was told more than once he was free to leave the conference room (that was located in the prison) and return to his cell; however, he was not given Miranda warnings or told he did not have to speak to deputies. Fields confessed during the interview, or at least the offers claimed that he confessed. He was later charged with the crime and…shockingly…convicted at trial.
The United States Supreme Court held there is no rule that an interrogation is automatically custodial for purposes of Miranda when a prisoner is questioned in private about events occurring outside of prison. A person is in custody for purposes of Miranda when, viewed objectively, the totality of the circumstances surrounding the interrogation show a reasonable person would have felt he or she was not free to end the questioning and leave. So apparently the court used the “reasonable person” standard that is based upon a reasonable college graduate who is out in the community minding his own business.
The Correct Standard
The correct standard should be a reasonable person who is in the same shoes as Fields. Imagine a prisoner, doing his best to do his time without having problems, being taken into a room for questioning by officers. One time aggravating the wrong person when you are in custody can result in a longer prison sentence or denial of parole. How can that person be judged by the same standard is a person outside the prison walls who has nothing to lose by walking away from a law enforcement officer? Has the criminal justice system gone insane? Apparently so.
The Court determined Fields was not in custody for purposes of Miranda. The Court noted Fields was interviewed in an average size room where the door was sometimes open, offered food and water, was not physically restrained or threatened. Most importantly, the Court noted Fields was told at the beginning of the interview, and reminded later, that he could leave and go back to his cell whenever he wanted. The court failed to adequately consider that Fields was NOT told that he did not have to answer questions.
Why did this happen?
Why did the court make the ruling that it did? Because prisoners and people charged with crimes are not considered to be worth protecting and the judicial branch all to frequently bends over backwards to maintain convictions even if the result is illogical.
Who will stand up to judges who are doing everything they can to help the prosecution? The attorneys with my firm, LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C., will fight for you no matter what the odds or who is sitting on the bench! If you want a free, confidential consultation regarding a charge against you in any court in Michigan, including but not limited to Oakland County, Wayne County or Macomb County, please do not hesitate to call us. We are not afraid to win!
Loren M. Dickstien, PartnerLEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C.Michigan Criminal Defense Attorney
LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. handles all misdemeanor and felony cases in state and federal court. Cases where Miranda warnings should frequently be given include domestic violence, drunk driving (OWI, DUI, DWI, OWID, etc…), drug possession, possession with intent to deliver, assault and battery, felonious assault, financial crimes, embezzlement, retail fraud, larceny and more.