A woman approached two officers, told them she had just been sexually assaulted, provided a description of the suspect, and stated the suspect had entered a nearby supermarket carrying a gun. One of the officers went into the supermarket, saw Quarles, who matched the description given by the victim, and chased him to the back of the store. The officer ordered Quarles to stop, and upon frisking him, the officer discovered Quarles was wearing an empty shoulder holster. The officer handcuffed Quarles and asked him where the gun was located. Quarles nodded toward some empty cartons and stated “the gun is over there.” The officer found the gun in one of the boxes and arrested Quarles.
Whether the officer was required to read Quarles his Miranda warnings before asking him where the gun was located?
No. The interest of public safety allowed the officer to ask about the gun without first reading Quarles his Miranda warnings.
Quarles was in custody for Miranda purposes when the officer asked him where the gun was located. Nonetheless, the Court held that there is an overriding “public safety” exception to the requirement that Miranda warnings be provided before a custodial interrogation. The Court concluded that Miranda warnings are not required when “police officers ask questions reasonably prompted by a concern for public safety.” Here, the officer was “confronted with the immediate necessity of ascertaining the whereabouts of a gun which [he] had every reason to believe the suspect had just removed from his empty holster and discarded in the supermarket.” While the gun remained concealed in the supermarket, it posed numerous dangers to public safety. The officer “needed an answer to his question not simply to make his case against [the defendant], but to insure that further danger to the public did not result from the concealment of the gun in a public area.”
467 U.S. 649, 104 S. Ct. 2626 (1984)