Catholic University Law Review


Bruce Ching


In its 1984 decision New York v. Quarles, the Supreme Court announced the public safety exception, under which statements made by un-Mirandized suspects can be admissible when made in response to questions reasonably asked to protect the safety of the arresting officers or the general public. During the investigation of terrorism cases, law enforcement agencies have begun to extend the time of un-Mirandized questioning of suspects, with the hope that courts will find that the public safety exception makes the suspects’ statements admissible in the ensuing prosecutions.

This Article argues that in announcing the public safety exception, the Court implicitly analogized the role of police interrogation in situations implicating public safety to the actions of criminal defendants in situations of self-defense and defense of others. Recognizing this implicit analogy can provide guidance on the applicability and limits of the public safety exception and related issues, such as the rescue doctrine, to the investigation of terrorism suspects. The comparison can also draw upon the reasoning involved in recognizing battered woman syndrome, which has been used to broaden the circumstances under which suspects might have reasonably acted in self-defense. The evaluation of the reasonableness of self-defense in the context of battered woman syndrome can be analogized to evaluating the admissibility of terrorism suspects’ un-Mirandized statements, which might be affected by the frequency and severity of terrorist activities that took place in the time leading up to the arrest of the suspects.