4/20/13

Exigent circumstances - the public safety exception ...

 ... or, "Where's the gun?"

The talking heads on the cable and other 'news' outlets are showing themselves to be the compleat twits they really are.

They're making noises about Suspect 2 getting off because he wasn't 'read his Miranda rights.'

First, they aren't 'Miranda rights.' They are 'constitutional rights', of which the suspect is advised per the findings of the Supreme Court in Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966).

Second, a suspect must be under custodial arrest before the Miranda ruling kicks in. I believe we can all agree that Suspect 2 was in that state at the time any interrogation took place. Interestingly, any statements an arrestee makes that are not in response to interrogation may in fact be used, falling outside of Miranda. To trigger Miranda, one must a) be under arrest and b) interrogated. Spontaneous comments by the arrestee not in reaction to interrogation are fully admissible. This is why the worst thing a cop can do sometimes is actually advise the thug per Miranda. The advisement is nothing less than a 'shut up, fool' warning. So long as the officer asks no questions - for example, during transport to the PD - anything the arrestee spews forth is admissible. There are, however, a number of cases that establish what constitutes 'arrest' and what constitutes 'interrogation,' and one should not 'play cute' in trying to get an arrestee to talk.

Miranda is not triggered by 'focus of suspicion' though a lot of cops still believe that even in this day and age. Certainly one gets that impression from all the cops shows, but that doesn't make them right. It just illustrates the ignorance of the script writers.

Third, there are a number of what are called 'exigent circumstances' that can preclude the need for a warrant for search and/or seizure, and for interrogation of an arrestee.

Here is a good examination specifically of the public safety exemption to Miranda:

FBI - The Public Safety Exemption to Miranda

This article is found in the FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, which may be found in magazine racks in police department bathrooms across the land, right next to Car and Driver, American Rifleman, the latest Gall's catalog, and other such professional reading matter.

However, the public safety exemption is temporary, and applies only to interrogation that directly affects circumstances presenting an imminent danger to the public. This is important, because once that 'imminent danger' dissipates, the public safety exemption no longer applies.

Meanwhile, Suspect 2 ain't getting off anything, unless you consider that for the rest of his miserable life the only way he's going to be 'getting off' will be as the result of whacking off in the federal prison over in Florence. Given that he is only 19, that looks to be a very very very long time indeed to be staring the walls in his little cell.