Public-Safety Exception to Miranda

Question: What is the “public-safety” exception to Miranda?

Answer: So, The public safety exception is a limited exception, and it applies basically on a case-by-case usage. And what it does, it does allow statements where they have not been advised of the Miranda warnings to be used. But they’re going to look at the circumstance. The case that really drives this is New York v. Quarles.   And it’s a 1984 case. In that particular case, the Supreme Court looked at the facts, which was a rape suspect that supposedly had a handgun was at a supermarket.

They located the person in the supermarket, but, which was open to the public, but the person had a shoulder holster on but it was empty. And so they were concerned about obviously the gun being somewhere in this supermarket that was open to the public, where anybody could get to it. And so the police officer, as he’s arresting him, says, “Where’s the gun?” And the person then says where the gun is, which is a statement. And so, in that particular case the court looked at that and they said that was OK, because it was not actually compelled by police conduct which overcame his will to resist.

It was focused, it was limited, and it involved a situation in which the police officers asked questions reasonably prompted by concern for public safety. And this is what we were talking about earlier, because in 2010, the FBI encouraged its agents to use this broad interpretation when dealing with terrorism cases. 

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