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December 07, 2009

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Intermediate appellate courts in New York often cite People v. Alls,83 N.Y.2d 94 (1993), for the proposition that prisoners are not "in custody" for Miranda purposes, even when being interrogated by police officers about crimes committed outside the prison. However, Alls dealt with interrogation by correction officers about prison-related incidents. In Alls, the Court likened certain correction officer-inmate exchanges to "on-the-scene" exchanges between the police and free citizens, such as traffic and Terry stops, which do not require Miranda warnings. The Court of Appeals never suggested the Alls "cusody" test ("added constraint") applies to one-on-one police dominated questioning of inmates as part of criminal investigations. These interrogations are not analogous to traffic or Terry stops. They are analogous to stationhouse interrogations, which are quintessentially within the purview of Miranda.

A case argued in the U.S. Supreme Court in October, Maryland v. Shatzer, may provide some guidance on the applicability of Miranda to prison interrogations. There, the police sought to question Shatzer in prison and he invoked his right to counsel upon receving Miranda warnings. Almost three years later, different investigators returned to the prison and questioned Shatzer in connection with the same investigation. After a fresh set of Miranda warnings, Shatzer agreed to speak and made damaging admissions.

The issue before the Supreme Court is whether the rule of Edwards v. Arizona barred reinterrogation of Shatzer after he had invoked his right to counsel at the earlier interrogation. The State and the United States (as amicus curiae) conceded that Shatzer was "in custody" for Miranda purposes on both occasions.

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