Do Police Have To Give A Miranda Warning When Public Safety Is In Jeopardy?
In general, the police must give you a Miranda warning–i.e., you have the right to remain silent and speak with an attorney–before questioning you. Any custodial statements made prior to giving the warning are typically inadmissible in court. But the U.S. Supreme Court has recognized a “public safety” exception to this general rule. Basically, the Court has held that strict adherence to Miranda is not required when “police officers ask questions reasonably prompted by a concern for the public safety.”
The public safety exception was prompted by a New York case where police responded to a woman who reported a rape. She described the assailant and told officers that he was carrying a gun. Officers found the suspect in a nearby supermarket. The suspect attempted to flee. When the police stopped him, they asked him to indicate where his gun was before giving the Miranda warning. Under these circumstances, the Supreme Court said the suspect’s admissions regarding the location of the weapon were admissible in court.
Court of Criminal Appeals: No Warning Needed Before Asking Kidnapping Suspect About Victim’s Location
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals recently addressed the public safety exception in the context of a kidnapping case. In State v. Mota, the defendant allegedly kidnapped a 15-year-old girl and demanded a $300 ransom from the mother. A local sheriff’s investigator posed as a friend of the family to “negotiate the trade,” according to the CCA. During the negotiation, police were able to track the location of the caller’s cell phone.
Police arrived at the trace location and questioned the defendant regarding the kidnapping before giving any Miranda warning. After an extended period of questioning, the defendant agreed to “help locate the girl” if the police let him go. The police did not agree to that arrangement and continued to question the defendant until he revealed the location.
In court, the defendant argued the pre-Miranda questioning about the victim’s location violated his constitutional rights. The district attorney argued the public safety exception applied. The trial court disagreed and excluded the defendant’s statements as evidence. The state appealed, and the CCA reversed, holding that the defendant’s statements were admissible.
The CCA agreed with the prosecution that the public safety exception covered this situation. The Court noted that when a child has been kidnapped the state’s interests in protecting public safety are “at their zenith.” The CCA noted that in past cases, it held that even the “slightest chance of rescuing a live, kidnapped child justifies overriding” certain constitutional protections, such as the attorney-client privilege. The Court said the same reasoning applies to foregoing the Miranda warning when a child’s life was on the line.
Contact Texas Criminal Defense Lawyer Keith B. French Today
If you are facing serious criminal charges, prosecutors will not hesitate to employ every legal tactic available to them to secure your conviction. That is why you need to work with an experienced Pearland criminal defense attorney who will aggressively protect your rights in court. Contact Keith B. French Law, PLLC, today if you need to speak with a lawyer right away.