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High court rules against Michigan man over molestation confession

The Supreme Court of the United States has issued a ruling regarding a Michigan inmate who had argued that he should have been read his rights before he confessed to apparent sex crimes he committed against a 12-year-old boy. The man, who was being questioned in a prison conference room, had been imprisoned on a disorderly conduct charge.

The circumstances of the case were quite unique. The man was being questioned in a conference room, rather than an interrogation room, and he was repeatedly offered food and water. The questioners also told the Michigan man that he was free to leave the room at any time, and the door to the prison conference room was left open.

At no time, however, was the man read his Miranda rights, which would have advised him of his rights while in custody. He therefore challenged the admissibility of his confession to molesting the boy because he was not apprised of his rights.

However, the justices ruled that the circumstances of the man's interrogation -- the open door, the invitations to leave, the offers of food and water -- indicated that he was not in custody in the sense that would have required Miranda rights to be read.

The court therefore reversed an appeals court decision that ruled that the Michigan man had been in custody. Three justices dissented on the vote, which went 6-3 against the inmate.

If nothing else, the case can serve as a reminder for anyone accused of a crime that they should use extreme caution when talking about events that could potentially lead to them being criminally charged. In general, a person should not answer any questions posed by a police officer about a possible criminal charge without first consulting with an experienced criminal lawyer.

Source: ABA Journal, "Supreme Court: Miranda Warning Not Required for Inmate Questioned About Second Crime in Prison," Debra Cassens Weiss, Feb. 21, 2012

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