The Emergency Exception to the Miranda Rule
All law enforcement officers are required to provide the Miranda warning when they are making an arrest. The Miranda warning informs people of their right to silence and right to avoid incriminating themselves during their arrest. If a police officer neglects to give this warning, it is a violation of the 5th and 6th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. However, there is an exception to this rule, one that typically applies if officers are responding to a potential emergency.
In New York, for example, a court found that, in an emergency, officers can make an exception to the Miranda rule. In a 2013 murder case, a deputy sheriff responded to a 911 call of a suspicious person. The deputy found a man matching the description walking down the road; the man also had wet blood stains on his skin and clothing. When speaking to the officer, the suspect asked for a ride to his nearby van, and the deputy agreed to grant it. The man got into the patrol vehicle, after which a firefighter arrived and told the officer he had seen the man hiding in a garage earlier. The deputy then formally detained the man. Typically, the deputy would have read the man his Miranda warning, but since the deputy and other officers were trying to help someone in immediate danger (the person whose blood was on the man’s clothing), the court found the warning unnecessary.
Because of this case, an emergency doctrine applies in cases that meet the following criteria:
- The police have reasonable cause to believe their immediate help is needed because of an emergency involving personal injury or property damage
- The officers aren’t secretly motivated by the desire to arrest someone and seize evidence
- There is reason to believe the emergency situation is nearby
The deputy found the suspect didn’t adequately explain how he came to be covered in wet blood. Because of such suspicious circumstances, the deputy was justified in failing to Mirandize the suspect.
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