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Non-Native Speakers, Miranda Rights, and Custodial Interrogation

Non-Native Speakers, Miranda Rights, and Custodial Interrogation

Chapter:
(p.227) Chapter Eleven Non-Native Speakers, Miranda Rights, and Custodial Interrogation
Source:
The Discourse of Police Interviews
Author(s):
Bethany K. Dumas
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226647821.003.0011

U.S. criminal cases involving non-native English speakers are inherently complex, often requiring assessment of whether the accused has understood Miranda rights. Deciding whether a speaker has understood the Miranda warnings in English or in another language, necessarily involves detailed linguistic analysis. Adequate assessments of proficiency must take into account all available linguistic and contextual evidence. This chapter describes approaches used by linguists in three cases in Tennessee involving non-native English speakers as defendants. The 2003 case involved the English competence of a native speaker of Spanish accused and eventually convicted of murder; the 2012 case involved the English competence of a native speaker of German (with competence in Spanish, Polish, and Ukrainian) who was accused of attempted first-degree murder of his wife; the 2015 case involved the English competence of a Spanish-speaking woman from Mexico convicted of possession of a controlled substance (containing heroin) with intent to sell or deliver. Analysis by both prosecution and defense experts is discussed. Observations are made about how discourse analysis can aid in assessing proficiency in particular cases. The chapter concludes with recommendations for the giving of Miranda warnings to non-native English speakers and for assessing the adequacy of strategies used to deliver them.

Keywords:   custodial interrogation, discourse analysis, Miranda rights, non-native speaker, proficiency, syntax, warning

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