The right of every citizen against compulsory self-incrimination is a principle firmly embedded in the American justice system. The Supreme Court of the United States in Miranda v. Arizona, a decision that has established itself in the public consciousness, found the abuses of law enforcement so grave that the Court mandated certain prophylactic measures to protect Fifth Amendment rights. In doing so, the Court recognized that it was balancing the interest of protecting individuals' Fifth Amendment rights against the potential detrimental costs to effective law enforcement. In New York v. Quarles, the Supreme Court found a public policy exception to Miranda where there were exigent circumstances that constituted a sufficient risk to "public safety," which then justified disregarding Miranda's prophylactic measures in favor of effective law enforcement. An immediate and serious danger to public safety could upset the balance of public interests protected by Miranda, and Quarles's new exception sought to regain that balance. In subsequent years, the public-safety exception has undergone an expansion beyond the exigency requirement originally articulated in Quarles. The United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit has disregarded immediacy as being absolutely necessary in finding the public-safety exception to Miranda. In United States v. Liddell, the Eighth Circuit held that the public-safety exception applies to circumstances in which there is potential harm to police officers if there is an objectively reasonable belief that they may mishandle or happen upon an inherently dangerous item. In finding the public-safety exception applicable in these circumstances, the Eighth Circuit has upset the balance struck by the Supreme Court in Miranda and Quarles and ought to re-examine the exception to bring it back within its original conception - one rooted in exigency.
Bradley S. Dixon,
Call to Police the Margins: The Eighth Circuit's Expansion of Miranda's Public-Safety Exception, A,
75 Mo. L. Rev.
Available at: https://scholarship.law.missouri.edu/mlr/vol75/iss1/7