Abstract

http://ssrn.com/abstract=1485008
 
 

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The Language of Consent in Police Encounters


Janice Nadler


Northwestern University School of Law; American Bar Foundation

J. D. Trout


Loyola University Chicago


OXFORD HANDBOOK ON LINGUISTICS AND LAW, L. Solan, P. Tiersma, eds., Oxford University Press, Forthcoming
Northwestern Public Law Research Paper No. 09-18
American Bar Foundation Research Paper No. 09-04

Abstract:     
In this chapter, we examine the nature of conversations in citizen-police encounters in which police seek to conduct a search based on the citizen’s consent. We argue that when police officers ask a person if they can search, citizens often feel enormous pressure to say yes. But judges routinely ignore these pressures, choosing instead to spotlight the politeness and restraint of the officers’ language and demeanor. Courts often analyze the language of police encounters as if the conversation has an obvious, context-free meaning. The pragmatic features of language influence behavior, but courts routinely ignore or deny this fact. Instead, current Fourth Amendment jurisprudence assumes that the authority of armed police officers simply vanishes when they pose their desire to search as a question. We discuss empirical evidence suggesting that people are afraid to decline police officer requests to search, and conclude by discussing the social and psychological cost of the widespread use of consent searches.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 29

Keywords: consent, language, pragmatics, police, search, seizure, Fourth Amendment, consent search

JEL Classification: K49

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Date posted: October 8, 2009  

Suggested Citation

Nadler, Janice and Trout, J. D., The Language of Consent in Police Encounters. OXFORD HANDBOOK ON LINGUISTICS AND LAW, L. Solan, P. Tiersma, eds., Oxford University Press, Forthcoming; Northwestern Public Law Research Paper No. 09-18; American Bar Foundation Research Paper No. 09-04. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1485008

Contact Information

Janice Nadler (Contact Author)
Northwestern University School of Law ( email )
375 E. Chicago Ave
Unit 1505
Chicago, IL 60611
United States
312-503-3228 (Phone)
312-503-2035 (Fax)
American Bar Foundation ( email )
750 N. Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60611
J. D. Trout
Loyola University Chicago ( email )
1032 W, Sheridan Rd.
Chicago, IL 60660-1537
773-508-2301 (Phone)
HOME PAGE: http://www.jdtrout.com
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