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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
    Location
    Michigan
    Posts
    2

    Default Privacy of Inmate Mail

    I'm an attorney based in Macomb County. I have a client who was in jail on a charge of CSC1 with a fourteen-year-old. He's in his 20's.

    While in jail he recieved a letter from another fourteen-year-old with pictures of her in that letter. No private parts are showing, but they are sexy-looking.

    The jail manual says that mail will not be censored, that pictures are okay, and that inspection is for contraband only. The jailers found the pictures, called them contraband, and read the letter.

    The letter says that the fourteen-year-old had sex with my client, and now he is charged with CSC in relation to that claim in the letter. How can I exclude the letter and pictures from evidence, and keep the girl's claims out as "fruit of the poisonous tree"?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2004
    Posts
    758

    Default Prisoner Privacy & Mail

    My initial reaction, without researching the issue, is that prison authorities have a general right to intercept and read prisoner mail under People v Oliver, 63 Mich App 509, 515-516; 234 NW2d 679 (1975). While Oliver addresses outgoing mail, the same rationale applies to incoming mail. (The U.S. Supreme Court case they rely upon, Procunier v Martinez, 416 US 396, 412; 94 S Ct 1800; 40 L Ed 2d 224 (1974), albeit in a rather different context, addressed both incoming and outgoing mail.)

    While the 14-year-old has a First Amendment right to send the letter, and her communication is not complete until it is received by your client, your client has no standing to exclude evidence on the basis of any violation of her constitutional rights (assuming the court found that one occurred).

    As your client knew (or should have known) that incoming mail is inspected and, as Oliver expresses, "It seems obvious that prison officials could not determine which letters concerned escape plans or contained other information concerning proposed criminal activity or which contained encoded messages unless they had the general right to open and read prisoner mail", it seems unlikely that he could successfully assert that he had a reasonable expectation of privacy in the mail.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2004
    Location
    Ohio
    Posts
    13

    Default

    How could they charge him for a letter and pictures of a girl? Who knows who sent the actual letter and pictures.

    What grounds do they have to actually charge him is what i'm confused on. There is too much saying that he could have been setup, that he may not even know the girl and the girl just wants to get him into more trouble. Wouldn't the letter be considered "Hearsay" ?

    As long as he never admits to even knowing who she is, I don't see where there would be a problem. He's in jail, what can he do? If you can make this girl out to be some trouble maker whos out to get this guy for her own entertainment then he shouldn't have a problem I wouldn't think.

    I'm not a lawyer, but I was having some problems with a few letters being wrote about me. They couldn't use them as evidence because I told the judge I had no idea who he was talking about in the letters.. The judge had to dismiss them as evidence.

    xith

    Hope I helped any. Good luck.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
    Location
    Michigan
    Posts
    2

    Default I Wish It Were That Easy

    Things are more complicated than that, obviously.

    A jury isn't going to believe that the girl picked an inmate's name out of a hat, sent him the letter and picture on a lark, and then lied to the police when asked if the content of the letters were true.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Sep 2004
    Posts
    758

    Default

    Macomb JD I agree with your words.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2005
    Location
    Texas
    Posts
    5

    Default

    It appears even more complicated because who is the girl? Is she willing to help or hurt him? They can't charge him on being with a minor unless they can prove it. A letter stating they had a relationship will not fly, there needs to be some physical, if not some witness testimony supporting the charge. Has the authorities contacted the girl and gotten her statement on the issue? Where are they with this? Certainly he can state he doesn't know her, but if he is caught in a lie, and there is anyone who can testify that they saw him with her, or she lives in his neighborhood, or she goes to the same dentist, that could be more harmful than helpful. I was under the impression that there had to be charges made, and an actual victim who is confessing that this person did this. I know the letter seems to implicate him, but I think that if the girl has not been confronted that perhaps someone for the defendant might want to see what her position is at this time prior to the law grabbing her. She might not want her family or anyone to think that about her and she can easily recant the letter, but if she is intimidated by the police that chance might have passed.

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