Michigan court rules on Miranda rights for inmates

Oct 28, 2011

The Michigan Court of Appeals has ruled that inmates are not necessarily entitled to Miranda warnings when they’re investigated for alleged law-breaking in prison. Typically, warnings that a suspect has the right to remain silent and have an attorney present have to be given once a person is detained and no longer free to leave.

We have more from Michigan Radio’s Rick Pluta:

“In this case, suspected gang member Burton Cortez was handcuffed and questioned after guards found two metal shanks in his cell during a lockdown search of the state prison in Carson City.

With a recorder running, Cortez acknowledged the blades were his, and admitted he sold a third shank to another inmate. Prison officials say the main purpose of their interrogation was to gain information to help restore order following a string of gang-related fights, and to root out a plot to murder a guard.

That was enough for the trial court – and the Court of Appeals – to deny Cortez’s motion to suppress his confession and the tape. The courts say Miranda warnings are not necessary when prison officials’ top focus is to keep the peace, and not to determine whether a crime has been committed, or who is responsible.”

In a separate ruling, the court found that a man convicted of secretly watching a woman and her daughters in a changing room does not automatically have to register as a sex offender.

Pluta explains:

“The man was caught trying to watch a woman and her young daughters undress in a retail store changing room, and was convicted of the crime called “surveilling an unclothed person.”  He was sentenced to 137 days in jail as well as three years on probation. And he was ordered to put his name and whereabouts into the state’s sex offender registry. The man protested because the crime he was convicted of is not one of the listed offenses that requires registration, and the judge never stated some other specific reason why he should be ordered onto the registry.

There is a provision that allows judges to order someone onto the registry who is convicted of a crime that is somehow sex-related and involves a minor.

The Court of Appeals sent the case back to the lower court, where the judge will either have to explain why the order to register falls under that provision, or drop it.”