U.S. Supreme Court
New York v. Quarles, 467 U.S. 649 (1984)
New York v. Quarles
Argued January 18, 1984
Decided June 12, 1984
467 U.S. 649
Respondent was charged in a New York state court with criminal possession of a weapon. The record showed that a woman approached two police officers who were on road patrol, told them that she had just been raped, described her assailant, and told them that the man had just entered a nearby supermarket and was carrying a gun. While one of the officers radioed for assistance, the other (Officer Kraft) entered the store and spotted respondent, who matched the description given by the woman. Respondent ran toward the rear of the store, and Officer Kraft pursued him with a drawn gun, but lost sight of him for several seconds. Upon regaining sight of respondent, Officer Kraft ordered him to stop and put his hands over his head; frisked him and discovered that he was wearing an empty shoulder holster; and, after handcuffing him, asked him where the gun was. Respondent nodded toward some empty cartons and responded that "the gun is over there." Officer Kraft then retrieved the gun from one of the cartons, formally arrested respondent, and read him his rights under Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U. S. 436. Respondent indicated that he would answer questions without an attorney being present and admitted that he owned the gun and had purchased it in Florida. The trial court excluded respondent's initial statement and the gun because the respondent had not yet been given the Miranda warnings, and also excluded respondent's other statements as evidence tainted by the Miranda violation. Both the Appellate Division of the New York Supreme Court and the New York Court of Appeals affirmed.
Held: The Court of Appeals erred in affirming the exclusion of respondent's initial statement and the gun because of Officer Kraft's failure to read respondent his Miranda rights before attempting to locate the weapon. Accordingly, it also erred in affirming the exclusion of respondent's subsequent statements as illegal fruits of the Miranda violation. This case presents a situation where concern for public safety must be paramount to adherence to the literal language of the prophylactic rules enunciated in Miranda. Pp. 467 U. S. 653-660.
(a) Although respondent was in police custody when he made his statements and the facts come within the ambit of Miranda, nevertheless, on these facts, there is a "public safety" exception to the requirement that Miranda warnings be given before a suspect's answers may be admitted chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
into evidence, and the availability of that exception does not depend upon the motivation of the individual officers involved. The doctrinal underpinnings of Miranda do not require that it be applied in all its rigor to a situation in which police officers ask questions reasonably prompted by a concern for the public safety. In this case, so long as the gun was concealed somewhere in the supermarket, it posed more than one danger to the public safety: an accomplice might make use of it, or a customer or employee might later come upon it. Pp. 467 U. S. 655-657.
(b) Procedural safeguards that deter a suspect from responding, and increase the possibility of fewer convictions, were deemed acceptable in Miranda in order to protect the Fifth Amendment privilege against compulsory self-incrimination. However, if Miranda warnings had deterred responses to Officer Kraft's question about the whereabouts of the gun, the cost would have been something more than merely the failure to obtain evidence useful in convicting respondent. An answer was needed to insure that future danger to the public did not result from the concealment of the gun in a public area. P. 467 U. S. 657.
(c) The narrow exception to the Miranda rule recognized here will to some degree lessen the desirable clarity of that rule. However, the exception will not be difficult for police officers to apply, because, in each case, it will be circumscribed by the exigency which justifies it. Police officers can and will distinguish almost instinctively between questions necessary to secure their own safety or the safety of the public and questions designed solely to elicit testimonial evidence from a suspect. Pp. 467 U. S. 658-659.
58 N.Y.2d 664, 444 N.E.2d 984, reversed and remanded.
REHNQUIST, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J.,and WHITE, BLACKMUN, and POWELL, JJ., joined. O'CONNOR, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment in part and dissenting in part, post, p. 467 U. S. 660. MARSHALL, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BRENNAN and STEVENS, JJ., joined, post, p. 467 U. S. 674. chanroblesvirtualawlibrary