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Comprehension of rights matters during interrogations

People who are being interrogated by police officers have specific rights that must be respected by the law enforcement officials who are handling the investigation. Namely, people who are being interrogated by police officers must be informed of their constitutional rights, and they must be able to understand what they are being told. When police officers fail to do this, that fact can have an impact on the criminal trial if charges are placed against the person who is interrogated. A recent rape case highlights this issue.

The case at hand is one that involves a refugee from Sudan. The University of Missouri police department handled an interrogation with the man in July 2015. The man did sign a document that told him of his rights, but his attorneys asserted that he didn't know what the paper meant. The man says that in Africa, he was beaten for not complying with instructions and was worried that would happen if he didn't speak to the officers.

Police officers claim that the man understood English without any real issues until police started asking him specific questions about the alleged rape victim. One detective did state that he didn't test the man's understanding or offer an interpreter. That same detective noted that there were language barriers present, but that the man did seem to understand what was being said.

Ultimately, the judge found that the state didn't make their case regarding his comprehension of the English language in regards to his rights. The judge did note that it was possible that the man was faking the inability to understand his constitutional rights. It was also argued that because there wasn't an intention to arrest the man that the need to Mirandize him wasn't present.

The hearing, which lasted three hours, resulted in the entire interrogation being considered inadmissible in court for the man's trial. This man's case proves how important it is to consider whether your constitutional rights were violated or not when you are facing a criminal charge, especially one as serious as rape. If you have any questions about this, seeking answers when planning your defense is a good idea.

Source: Columbia Daily Tribune, "Judge throws out rape suspect's police interrogation," Alan Burdziak, Aug. 11, 2016

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