By Nathan Collins
When you’re arrested by police and they read you your Miranda rights, you have two main options: You can keep quiet and demand a lawyer, or you can waive your rights and agree to speak to police without a lawyer present. Now,researchers argue that an increasingly common police tactic, the use of Tasers and similar devices during arrests, might invalidate many Miranda waivers—basically, because those devices temporarily fry your brain.
The Supreme Court’s decision in Miranda v. Arizona established both the right to have a lawyer present during interrogations as well as the ability to waive that particular right—but to be valid, the waiver had to be made knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily. Subsequently, those conditions were refined to require “full awareness of both the nature of the right being abandoned and the consequences of the decision to abandon it.”
The question is, could a Taser interfere with a person’s awareness enough to invalidate a Miranda waiver? It’s not an entirely crazy question—after all, psychiatrists sometimes still use electric currents to treat major depression, and while the currents involved are much higher, the risks include confusion and memory problems. Yet no one’s sure whether being shot by a police officer with a Taser might have similar, if less severe, effects.
Picture: jasonesbain (Taser) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons