Public Safety Exception to Miranda – State v. O’Neal

Among the many important legal issues discussed by the New Jersey Supreme Court in this morning’s decision in State v. O’Neal, two stand out. First, the justices explain that probable cause to arrest is the triggering event for a search incident to an arrest. Accordingly, once the police have developed probable cause to effect an arrest, they may lawfully search the person for weapons and evidence before formally placing the suspect under arrest.

The second issues relates to the public safety exception to the Miranda warnings. As previously developed by the United States Supreme Court, police may ask questions of an arrested person relating to the immediate recovery of dangerous weapons at an arrest scene. The New Jersey Supreme Court, for the first time, issued guidelines in the O’Neal case relating to the types of questions the police may ask in these limited public safety situations when there is an objectively reasonable need to protect the police and public from the immediate danger posed by a weapon.

Download a copy of State v. O’Neal.

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