‘Custody’ in Custody: Redefining Miranda Rights in Prison

27 Pages Posted: 31 Mar 2011

See all articles by Maya Dominguez

Maya Dominguez

American University - Washington College of Law

Date Written: March 21, 2011


In Miranda v. Arizona, the Supreme Court held that, in order to safeguard the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination, police must inform suspects of their ‘Miranda Rights’ when subjecting them to a custodial interrogation. Courts normally determine custody for Miranda purposes by asking whether a reasonable person would feel free to leave. But what happens when suspects are in prison and cannot leave? When is someone who is in custody “in custody”? That is a question that the Supreme Court has explicitly refused to answer, until now. Recently, in Howes v. Fields, the Sixth Circuit took a bright line approach to defining ‘custody’ in custodial settings, ruling that when police separate inmates from the general population and question them regarding an incident occurring outside the prison, the inmate is per se “in custody” for the purposes of Miranda.

This Note argues that the Supreme Court should create a bright line rule, requiring law enforcement to read inmates their Miranda rights when police move inmates from the general population and isolated for the purpose of interrogating them regarding a crime that occurred outside the prison, by affirming the Sixth Circuit’s holding in Howes v. Fields. Part II examines the application of Miranda in custodial settings and explores the circuit split created by Fields. Part III argues that the Fields holding should be affirmed because separating inmates from the general population satisfies the coercive pressure and restraint on movement necessary to trigger Miranda protections.

Finally, Part IV of this Note concludes that the bright line rule articulated in Fields is necessary to safeguard the rights of inmates, and should be affirmed by the Supreme Court in order to provide more guidance to the courts.

Keywords: Criminal Procedure, Miranda, Fifth Amendement, Mathis, Cervantes, Fields, Prison, Shatzer

Suggested Citation

Dominguez, Maya, ‘Custody’ in Custody: Redefining Miranda Rights in Prison (March 21, 2011). American University Journal of Gender, Social Policy & the Law, Vol. 19, June 2011, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1798183

Maya Dominguez (Contact Author)

American University - Washington College of Law ( email )

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Washington, DC 20016
United States
(407) 416-0061 (Phone)

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