New York v. Quarles Case Brief

Facts of the case

After receiving the description of Quarles, an alleged assailant, a police officer entered a supermarket, spotted him, and ordered him to stop. Quarles stopped and was frisked by the officer. Upon detecting an empty shoulder holster, the officer asked Quarles where his gun was. Quarles responded. The officer then formally arrested Quarles and read him his Miranda rights.

Why is the case important?

After being stopped and frisked, revealing an empty shoulder holster, respondent Benjamin Quarles said “the gun is over there” in response to an officer’s question about its whereabouts. Only then did the officer give the respondent his Miranda warnings.


Is there an exception to the requirement that a suspect be read their Miranda rights before their answers can be admitted into evidence when the officer’s aims in questioning are to insure that no danger to the public results from concealment of a weapon?


Yes. Reverse the decision of the lower court to suppress the gun and statement.
Under these circumstances, there are strong public safety concerns justifying the court creating an exception to the requirement that officers provide Miranda warnings before asking questions. The officer’s trying to retrieve a weapon he knew was somewhere nearby so that no accomplice or customer would pick it up and start shooting protected the public, and this type of action should not be discouraged.


The Court held that the case at bar presented a situation where concern for public safety must be paramount to adherence to the literal language of the prophylactic rules enunciated in Mirand a. According to the Court, the doctrinal underpinnings of Miranda did not require that it be applied in all its rigor to a situation in which police officers ask questions reasonably prompted by a concern for the public safety. In the present case, the Court opined that so long as the gun was concealed somewhere in the supermarket, it posed more than one danger to the public safety: an accomplice might make use of it, or a customer or employee might later come upon it.

  • Advocates: Steven J. Rappaport Argued the cause for the petitioner David A. Strauss Argued the cause for the United States as amicus curiae urging reversal Steven J. Hyman Argued the cause for the respondent
  • Petitioner: New York
  • Respondent: Quarles
  • DECIDED BY:Burger Court
  • Location: A&P supermarket
Citation: 467 US 649 (1984)
Argued: Jan 18, 1984
Decided: Jun 12, 1984
New York v. Quarles Case Brief