Public Safety Exception to Miranda Warnings

On April 21, 2013, in Criminal, Message/News Board, by Robbie L. Vaughn, Esq.

Miranda Warnings

Miranda Warnings and the Public Safety Exception*

When Miranda Warnings must be given:

1.  Miranda Warnings must be given prior to any questioning if you have Custodial Interrogation by Authorities (CIA)**:

Custody – Custody involves a significant deprivation of freedom of movement and occurs when a person is not free to leave. Orozco v. Texas 394 Us. 324 (1969)

Interrogation – Interrogation includes not only questioning by express words, but by any words or actions that police should know are reasonably likely to elicit an incriminating response. Rhode Island v. Innis 446 U.S. 291 (1980).

Authorities – Only government agents are authorities and required to advise a suspect of his Miranda rights.  However, if the seizure or questioning was instigated or closely supervised by the police, then this might constitute sufficient state involvement requiring Miranda warnings.

** All 3 must be present to require Miranda Warnings.



Under the Public Safety Exception:

1. The police may ask questions, of a suspect who is in custody, without first giving Miranda warnings when an imminent threat to public safety exists, such as a loaded gun in a public place, a bomb, a missing kidnap victim, or a victim being held hostage. New York v. Quarles, 467 U.S. 649 (l984).

2. The public safety exception can be applied when the concern is for an individual and not just the public; where an individual’s life is at stake. Some courts have referred to concern of an individual as opposed to the public as the “Rescue Doctrine” or the “Emergency Exception.”

Public Safety Exception example:

The police were stopped by a woman who had just been raped and advised that the perpetrator had run into a nearby supermarket. Upon entering the supermarket the suspect fitting the perpetrator’s description, fled to the back of the store. Upon confronting and frisking the suspect, who was wearing an empty shoulder holster, the arresting officer asked:

“Where is the gun?” without administering Miranda warnings. The suspect pointed to a carton and stated, “Over there.”

The statement and the gun were deemed admissible. New York v. Quarles, supra.

*The above is only a small portion of a presentation that I gave earlier this year on Miranda Warnings. I do not claim to be a Miranda expert, but I do believe the above provides a basic explanation of  the Public Safety Exception to Miranda Warnings.

Long Island Criminal Attorneys

 The Law Firm of Vaughn, Weber & Prakope, PLLC, can be reached at (516) 858-2620.

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