Two Occasions When the Police Don't Have to Read You Your Rights

Thanks to the overabundance of police shows on TV, most of us are well aware that once someone is arrested, the police have to read them their rights. This is known as a Miranda warning after the 1966 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Miranda v. Arizonawhere the court ruled that failing to inform a person in custody that they have a constitutional right against self-incrimination violates the Fifth Amendment.

However, there are two occasions when the police do not have to read you your rights — one is the emergency exception and the other is the public safety exception.

Emergency Exception to Miranda Rule

If officers are responding to a potential emergency and have reason to believe that their help is needed immediately because of personal injury or property damage, they do not need to provide a Miranda warning.

In one high-profile case, the New York Supreme Court held that a Miranda warning was not necessary because police were responding to someone who was in immediate danger. The court found that the emergency doctrine applied when police have a reasonable belief that their immediate assistance is needed, are not secretly motivated by a desire to arrest someone and seize evidence and there is reason to believe that the emergency is nearby.

Public Safety Exception to Miranda Rule

In 1984, the U.S. Supreme Court held that a police officer’s concern for public safety can justify a failure to provide a Miranda warning. However, courts differ on what exactly constitutes a treat to public safety.

Some courts have held that the public safety exception applies in any dangerous situation, whether or not the officer is aware of the actual threat. Other courts have found that the exception only applies when an officer knows of an immediate threat. However, what is agreed is that police officers must focus their questioning on the issue that is causing the immediate safety concern.

The Cogdell Law Firm is a full service criminal litigation and appellate law firm. We provide client-focused representation at all stages of the process, whether our clients are seeking to avoid charges, have been charged, or are seeking reversal of a conviction on appeal. When results matter most, contact Dan Cogdell at (713) 426-2244 or