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Public Safety Exception to Miranda Careening Through the Lower Courts

NCJ Number
University of Florida Law Review Volume: 40 Issue: 5 Dated: (Fall 1988) Pages: 989-1034
D B Yeager
Date Published
46 pages
This article reviews the public safety exception to the fifth amendment and the different interpretations thereof.
Miranda established a rule excluding incriminating statements elicited during custodial interrogation not preceded by police warnings and the suspect's waiver of fifth amendment requirements. However, in New York v. Quarles, the Court recognized the need for an exception to Miranda when police must defuse an immediate threat to public safety and declared that this outweighs the fifth amendment privilege against self incrimination. Yet lower courts have misapplied the exception inconsistently and may continue to use it as a pretext for admitting otherwise improperly attained evidence. As long as Quarles remains good law, the question of custodial interrogation as presumptively coercive is moot; "actual coercion" is now the standard. Police officers, now empowered to ignore the warrant and warnings mandates of the fourth and fifth amendments, are the new arbiters of criminal defendants' constitutional rights. 340 notes.