The “public safety exception” is a legal doctrine that allows law enforcement officers to ask questions about potential threats to public safety without providing a Miranda warning. The Miranda warning is a set of constitutional rights that must be read to a suspect before custodial interrogation. The warning advises suspects of their right to remain silent, their right to an attorney, and that anything they say can be used against them in court.
The U.S. Supreme Court first established the public safety exception in the 1984 case of New York v. Quarles. In that case, a police officer apprehended a suspect who was believed to have a weapon in his possession. The officer asked the suspect where the weapon was located before providing him with the Miranda warning, based on the belief that the weapon posed an immediate danger to public safety. The Court held that the public safety exception allowed for the admission of the suspect’s response as evidence in court.
In the 1994 case of U.S. v. Khalil, the public safety exception was expanded. In that case, law enforcement officers detained a suspect who they believed had information about a bomb that was about to explode in a public place. The officers asked the suspect about the location of the bomb and the identity of the bombers before providing him with the Miranda warning. The Court held that the public safety exception could apply not only to immediate threats to public safety, but also to imminent threats that may not be immediate but are still considered dangerous.
Therefore, the public safety exception, as expanded in U.S. v. Khalil, allows law enforcement officers to ask questions about potential threats to public safety without providing the Miranda warning in situations where there is a need to protect the public from imminent danger. However, the scope of the exception is limited to the immediate situation and must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case.