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Publication Date

January 2015


Everyone reads New York v. Quarles in law school. The Supreme Court’s 1984 decision in Quarles established the public safety exception—the first and only exception to the requirements of Miranda v. Arizona. But at the time of Quarles’s issuance, no one could have predicted just how big and forgiving the exception would become. Whereas the defendant in Quarles provided a single response to a single law enforcement question while in custody immediately following his arrest, one of the two 2013 Marathon Bombers, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, had a dramatically different experience. Four days after the April 15, 2013, Marathon Bombing, Tsarnaev was captured and the government preemptively invoked Quarles to question him for at least sixteen hours without providing Miranda warnings. During that time, Tsarnaev was severely injured, heavily sedated, asked for investigators to leave him alone, and requested a lawyer several times. That contrast, in a nutshell, is the problem with Quarles. Scholars and courts alike have for years debated the limits, if any, on the public safety exception’s applicability. But this Article makes a different argument: if the government’s reliance on Quarles in the context of Tsarnaev’s interrogation is constitutionally correct, then law enforcement’s mentality about Miranda should change—and change now. Rather than Quarles serving as a “seldom-used” exception to Miranda, Miranda should become the exception to Quarles and officers should assume a threat to public safety following even a routine arrest.

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