What Are the Exceptions to the Miranda Rights Rule?

The legal requirement that police advise individuals of their Constitutional rights under specific circumstances is well-established. The Miranda rights rule ultimately can result in suppression of evidence obtained in violation of the rule. However, like every rule, this one has exceptions. There are several situations in which the Miranda rule does not apply.

Basics of the Miranda Rights Rule

Establishment of the Miranda rule dates back to the 1966 U.S. Supreme Court case of Miranda v. Arizona, which explains the origin of the name of the rule. Subsequent court cases refined and expanded the rule.

The Miranda rights rule requires law enforcement to advise an individual of specific rights under the Fifth and Sixth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution:

  • The right to remain silent, coupled with a warning that any statements can be used against the person
  • The right to have an attorney during questioning, coupled with notice of the right to appointment of an attorney if the person cannot afford one

Many people do not realize that everyone always has these rights. You can assert them at any time, even if police do not give the Miranda rights notification.

The legal requirement applies when a person is under custodial interrogation by police, which occurs when a person is deprived of freedom of action in any significant way. If law enforcement fails to advise a person of their Miranda rights when required, the prosecutor may not be able to use evidence obtained during questioning. You can learn more about the Miranda rule in our previous article, When Do Police Need to Warn You About Your Rights?

There are limited exceptions to the Miranda rights requirement. If circumstances meet the criteria for an exception, police are not required to advise a person of their Miranda rights, even when they are in custody.

Miranda Exception for Public Safety

A 1984 U.S. Supreme Court case, N.Y. v. Quarles, established a public safety exception to the Miranda rule. Under the exception, police are not required to provide the warnings if they have a reasonable belief that public safety is in danger. The exception allows officers to ask questions necessary to secure their own safety and that of the public. Generally, two types of questions are permitted: 1) questions necessary to resolve the danger to the public, and 2) questions designed to extract incriminating evidence.

A widely publicized example of the public safety exception occurred in the Boston Marathon bombing case in 2013. When authorities arrested Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, they intentionally did not advise him of his Miranda rights, on the basis that the public safety exception applied. They sought to interrogate him to determine whether an imminent threat still existed, such as whether other bombs may have been planted. Eventually, two days after he was taken into custody, a federal judge called Tsarnaev and read his rights to him. The situation ignited a heated debate in the media about the public safety exception, which remains in place and has been utilized in several other bombing cases.

Other Miranda Exceptions

Another exception permits police to ask general and routine questions that are not intended to elicit incriminating evidence, such as asking for identification, without advising a person of their Miranda rights. The exception extends to standard booking questions as well.

Police also are not required to provide Miranda rights during preliminary questions following a traffic stop. The rights are required as soon as a person is detained and arrested for a traffic violation, such as Driving Under the Influence (DUI).

Generally, the Miranda rule applies to governmental agents, including police, other law enforcement officers, and prosecutors, not to private citizens. Courts have also determined that the rule does not apply to questions by undercover agents or informants (including jailhouse informants), even when the agent or informant is paid by the government. The reasoning for this exception is that there is no coercive atmosphere, since the person does not know they are being questioned by someone who has a relationship with law enforcement.

What To Do When Questioned By Police

While knowing there are exceptions to the Miranda rights requirement is helpful, it is more important to remember that you always have your Constitutional rights, whether or not the police advise you of your rights. You do not need to use any specific language to assert your right to remain silent and to have an attorney present.

If police stop you or come to your home, you can assert your rights immediately. You should provide your name, but then tell the officer that you wish to remain silent and have an attorney present. It’s important to know that if you are stopped on suspicion of DUI or DUID, your right to remain silent does not include the right to refuse to take a breath or blood test, because of the Nevada implied consent law.

Learn more details about what to do if police question you in our article, 3 Guidelines to Follow If You’re Arrested in Las Vegas.

Schedule a Free Consultation with a Las Vegas Criminal Defense Attorney

If you are under investigation or face state, local, or federal criminal charges in Las Vegas, Henderson, or elsewhere in Clark County, understanding and protecting your rights is essential. Las Vegas criminal defense attorney Joseph Gersten is here to help. Your initial consultation at The Gersten Law Firm is always free-of-charge. Call 702.857.8777 or complete our online form to schedule an appointment.