Interrogation Through Pragmatic Implication: Sticking to the Letter of the Law While Violating its Intent
in Lawrence Solan & Peter Tiersma, eds. Oxford Handbook on Language and the Law (Oxford University Press 2012).
14 Pages Posted: 24 Jan 2010 Last revised: 21 Jun 2014
Date Written: 2010
In response to increasing evidence that police interrogation procedures can and do elicit false confessions from innocent suspects, American Courts have offered guidelines intended to protect suspects from coercive interrogations and to ensure the voluntariness and reliability of any confessions obtained. However, faced with legal prohibitions against police promotion of suspect confessions through use of physical coercion or explicit incentives for confession, American police interrogation tactics have evolved to rely on the use of pragmatic implication to nevertheless convey strong incentives for suspects to confess guilt – practices that have essentially diluted or circumvented the intended protections and that have continued to elicit false as well as true confessions. This chapter outlines the sequence of common American police interrogation procedures, with emphasis on specific wording and tactics making use of pragmatic implication – in violation of the intent of the law – to convey promises of leniency for confession or harsher treatment in response to continued denial.
Keywords: interrogation, false confession, pragmatic implication, police
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