have been stunned with Tasers may be unable to understand Miranda warnings -
and more likely to waive their rights or even give false confessions -
according to the Philadelphia Inquirer
the first randomized controlled trial of the weapons outside of manufacturer
Taser International, found the 50,000-volt shocks significantly impair brain
function in the short term.
who have just recently been tased run the risk of talking to police without the
benefits of counsel and not understanding the consequences," said Drexel
criminology and justice studies Professor Robert Kane. It was published this
month in the journal Criminology and Public Policy.
Kane said the
study makes the case for a nationwide policy requiring police to wait an hour
after using a Taser on a suspect before interrogating him.
Kane, 48, who
came to Drexel from Arizona State University in 2012, began the work after he
and his colleagues heard about lawyers in the Phoenix area seeking to suppress
clients' confessions. Kane collaborated with Arizona State University professors
Michael White and Justin Ready on the research.
in Arizona were arguing that their clients, having been stunned with Tasers, were
unable to "knowingly, intelligently and voluntarily" waive their
rights. That's the standard outlined in Miranda v. Arizona, the 1966
Supreme Court decision that held people must be advised of their constitutional
rights to silence and to a lawyer before questioning.
from the federal National Institute of Justice, the criminologists recruited
142 healthy individuals, mostly college students, who were willing to be
Tasered, all in the interests of science.
shocked; a subgroup underwent physical exertion before the shock, just as a
suspect would be likely to have struggled with police.
who received the jolt performed worse on verbal learning tests and reported
difficulty concentrating, elevated anxiety and feeling overwhelmed.
who get tased look a lot like 78-year-olds suffering from mild cognitive
impairment and, in some cases, even patients with dementia," Kane said. On
average, the effects subsided within an hour, though in some cases, it took up
to a week.
Bridge, an assistant defender at the Defender Association of Philadelphia, said
he'd be sharing the research with colleagues.
new, and very troubling. It raises significant problems in terms of how the
judicial system would deal with these issues," he said.
It could be
grounds to argue that a defendant's waiver of rights was not knowing and
voluntary - and that a confession must be thrown out. The question is likely to
be litigated, he said.
for the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office declined to comment on the
the one-hour waiting period for questioning would be the best practice.
argue that such a rule would prevent them from obtaining timely information, he
said. But he dismissed that argument, noting the Supreme Court has already made
exceptions to Miranda in cases where an immediate interrogation is necessary to
resolve a threat to public safety.
Kane noted, his study might not even give the full picture of how Tasers impact
would expect 'typical' suspects - who may be drunk, high, or mentally ill and
in crisis at the time of exposure - to experience even greater
impairment," the study authors noted.
which used five-second Taser exposures, also does not explore the effects on
people who are Tased multiple times.
uncommon, said David Rudovsky, a civil rights lawyer and University of
Pennsylvania law professor.
are often overused. People get re-tased, often, several times," he said.