Public Safety Exception in Terms of Miranda Vs Arizona

Miranda Vs Arizona ultimate decision and how it impacted police questioning and the role of the current public safety exception in terms of Miranda and it’s use.

Miranda vs Arizona is one of the landmark cases of the 20th century. It helped in redefining modern confession. It led to the elimination of compelling pressures that are prevalent in custodial question. The ruling promulgated the fourfold warnings, which all police officers must provide accused persons. These include the right to remain silent, anything the accused says may be used against the individual in a court of law, the right to a lawyer, and if one cannot afford a lawyer, one would be appointed for the individual. Miranda has become embedded in the police culture. The prosecution faces harsh punishment if it does not follow the Miranda procedures. This is due to the fact that Miranda provides unwavering supporting of the suspect’s Fifth Amendment right to self-incrimination. According to the Supreme Court, ‘public safety’ exception is the only exception to the Miranda rule. The public safety exception allows law enforcement agencies to use limited and unwarned interrogation and use the statements as direct evidence against the accused persons (Champion & Hartley, 2012).

The attempted bombing of the Northwest Airlines Flight 235 near Detroit, Michigan, on 25th December 2009 is one of the instances that highlight the use of public safety exception. The attempted bombing occurred during a time when there was increased vigilance against terrorism in the U.S. As such, it was in the interest of public safety and their own safety for the police to ask questions that neutralized the threat without providing the suspects with a warning to their rights (Champion & Hartley, 2012).

New York v. Quarles was the origin of the public safety exception to the Miranda. In the morning hours of 11th September, 1980, two New York police officers were on patrol in Queens, New York when they were approached by a young woman who informed them that she had just been raped. She went on to provide an explicit definition of the perpetrator and told them that he was in a nearby supermarket. Upon entering the supermarket, the police saw a match who matched the description. The suspects fled after seeing the police. The police later caught up and arrested the suspect. After frisking him, they discovered that he had an empty shoulder holster. The man informed the police that the gun was in a nearby empty milk carton. The police founded a loaded handgun in the cartons. The police formally placed the suspect under arrest and read him his Miranda rights. He waved his rights and provided the police with information on the ownership of the gun and where he purchased it (Benoit, 2011).

Since the suspect provided the police with information on the location of the handgun before they read him the Miranda rights, the defense claimed that the suspect’s Miranda rights had been violated. Therefore, the police violated his Fifth Amendment. The defense claimed that when the suspect provided the police with information on the location of the gun, he was surrounded by four police officers and was already handcuffed. The police did not indicate that their safety was compromised in any manner when they questioned the suspect. The Supreme Court determined that there is an exception to the Miranda rights. Despite the fact that the suspect had removed the gun from the supermarket and discarded it, its location posed a threat to public safety.

U.S. v. Talley also highlights the use of the public safety exception to the Miranda rights. In the case, the police were executing a federal arrest warrant when they heard sounds that indicated that there were an unexpected number of people inside the residence of the suspect. The returned to their vehicles and wore bulletproof vests before going back to the front door. The police arrested the suspect and another individual. However, certain people inside the house refused to comply with the police demand to come out. When one of the officers entered the house, he tripped over a trash can that had bullets and a magazine for a semiautomatic gun. The officer asked the two people in the house where the gun was hidden and they provided him with the location of the gun. The defendant claimed that the police did not provide him with his Miranda rights prior to questioning him. The court held that in the context of the arrest, public safety exception was applicable. This is due to the fact that when the police officer saw the magazine, he had enough grounds to believe that the gun was nearby. Therefore, he was justified to ask for its location prior to reading the Miranda rights. According to the public safety exception, police should only ask questions that relate to their safety or the safety of the public. In addition, answers obtained through the public safety exception should be voluntarily. The suspect should not be coerced to provide the answers (Champion & Hartley, 2012).

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