Miranda Rights Questioned in Jail

Liana Teixeira

Should jail inmates be read their Miranda rights prior to questioning on subjects unrelated to their imprisonment? The Supreme Court is responsible for determining an answer to this issue.

Debate over Miranda rights in jail began when Michigan’s court ruled in favor of Randall Fields, who was questioned by Lenawee County deputies in regards to the sexual abuse of a minor. UPI.com reports that Fields was already serving a 45-day sentence for disorderly conduct, a crime completely unrelated to the assault. Fields’ questioning lasted over seven hours according to a report, and Fields was also told that he could leave the interview room if he wished. However, the deputies never informed Fields on his right to remain silent or his right to contact a lawyer before being interrogated, historic statutes established by the Supreme Court in the 1966 case Miranda v. Arizona.

According to the Supreme Court, officials are required to “Mirandize” a suspect upon his or her arrest, meaning that suspects must be advised of their constitutional right against self-incrimination and the right to legal counsel. If law enforcement officials neglect to provide Miranda rights, anything said or confessed cannot be used against a suspect in trial.

The state court of Michigan ruled that Fields’ rights were not violated because he was being questioned about a separate crime, one that was unrelated to his initial imprisonment. According to SCOTUSBLOG.com, Fields appealed to federal court which ruled that Supreme Court precedent mandated a Miranda warning whenever “an incarcerated individual is isolated from the general prison population and interrogated, (that is) questioned in a manner likely to lead to self-incrimination about conduct occurring outside the prison.”

The case is Howes v. Fields and will take place later this year.