As a Criminal Lawyer in Queens New York, The Miranda Warnings is an important aspect of almost every case that I handle. In a nut shell, the police must read a suspect that is in police custody his or her Miranda warnings prior to questioning that suspect. The basis of this rule comes from a very famous case of Miranda versus Arizona.
Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966), was a landmark decision of the United States Supreme Court which passed 5-4. The Court held that both inculpatory and exculpatory statements made in response to interrogation by a defendant in police custody will be admissible at trial only if the prosecution can show that the defendant was informed of the right to consult with an attorney before and during questioning and of the right against self-incrimination prior to questioning by police, and that the defendant not only understood these rights, but voluntarily waived them. This had a significant impact on law enforcement in the United States, by making what became known as the Miranda rights part of routine police procedure to ensure that suspects were informed of their rights. Therefore, if they suspect is not in police custody, he or she is not entitled to the Miranda warnings by the police.
One of the exceptions to the Miranda warnings is the Public Exception Safety Rule which has its roots planted right here in Bayside, Queens, in a 1980 case where the defendant by the name of Benjamin Quarles was arrested for Rape and Criminal Possession of a Weapon, a gun. In that case, a woman flagged down a New York City police car, and stated that she had been raped. She told the police that the man ran into a supermarket on Francis Lewis Boulevard in Queens, New York. The police ran into the supermarket and found the man they suspected to be the rapist. That man was Mr. Quarles. The police frisked Mr. Quarles, and handcuffed him. The police noticed an empty shoulder holster on Mr. Quarles, and asked him ‘Where is the gun?’ He pointed to an empty carton on the ground in the supermarket. The police recovered a .38 caliber snub nose pistol. Only then did the police take out a Miranda warning card and mirandize the defendant. Therefore, the big issue was that the police questioned the defendant before reading him his Miranda warnings, while he was in police custody.
In the Quarles case, New York’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, upheld lower court rulings that a gun seized by the police was not admissible as evidence because officers had failed to read Mr. Quarles his Miranda rights before the questioning. But the Queens District Attorney at the time appealed the decision to the Supreme Court of the United States which ruled that “overriding considerations of public safety” might warrant questioning suspects without first advising them of their rights. Hence, the ‘Public Safety Exception Rule’ to the Miranda Warnings Rule.
The issue is not whether suspects can be questioned before they are warned of their rights, but rather whether the answers or actions are admissible in court. Under this Public Exception Safety Rule, Prosecutors would have to prove that some imminent threat to public safety justified the failure to tell suspects of their right to remain silent and to consult a lawyer before being interrogated.
Now let’s fast forward 33 years. The Public Safety Exception Rule is getting a lot of attention in the Boston Marathon Copley Square bombing of April 15, 2013, where Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev is accused of a terrorist bombing that inflicted mass casualties and left three people dead. The Government has declared this rule applies to the questioning of
Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev under these circumstances since further terrorist acts are an imminent threat and the public’s safety is at risk. Of course, Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev’s Criminal Defense Lawyer will argue that it did not apply under the circumstances, and that the questioning by law enforcement without the benefit of the Miranda Warnings was improper, simply for investigative purposes, that all statements obtained should be suppressed, and not used in court at a trial against Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev. This undoubtedly will be one of the hottest legal issues to be litigated in this case.
This is the opinion of a QUEENS CRIMINAL ATTORNEY Luke Scardigno with offices in Kew Gardens, Queens NY.