By PETE YOST of Huffington Post:
WASHINGTON — A Justice Department official says the Boston Marathon bombing suspect [at the Obama administration’s direction] will not be read his Miranda rights because the government is invoking a public safety exception.
That official and a second person briefed on the investigation says 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev will be questioned by a special interrogation team for high-value suspects. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to disclose the information publicly.
The public safety exception permits law enforcement officials to engage in a limited and focused unwarned interrogation of a suspect and allows the government to introduce the statement as evidence in court. The public safety exception is triggered when police officers have an objectively reasonable need to protect the police or the public from immediate danger.
Miranda rights are the warnings law enforcement are normally legally obligated to administer to suspects of a crime.
When we are arrested, they inform us that amongst other things, we have a right not to incriminate ourselves, that we may consult an attorney, and that we may choose to answer or not answer any questions the authorities ask us. Today, the government gave Boston police a “public safety exemption” concerning the Miranda warning.
The legality of this exception was established in the case New York v. Quarles, where the Supreme Court considered the admissibility of a statement elicited by a police officer who apprehended a rape suspect thought to be carrying a firearm.
When the officer arrested the suspect in a crowded grocery store, he found an empty shoulder holster, handcuffed the suspect, and asked him where the gun was.
The suspect nodded in the direction of the gun (which was near some empty cartons) and said, “The gun is over there”. The Supreme Court found that such an unadvised statement was admissible in evidence because “[i]n a kaleidoscopic situation such as the one confronting these officers, where spontaneity rather than adherence to a police manual is necessarily the order of the day, the application of the exception we recognize today should not be made to depend on post hoc findings at a suppression hearing concerning the subjective motivation of the police officer”.
Under this exception, to be admissible in the government’s direct case at a trial, the questioning must not be “actually compelled by police conduct which overcame his will to resist,” and must be focused and limited, involving a situation “in which police officers ask questions reasonably prompted by a concern for the public safety.”