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Bar News - September 7, 2007

Hearing vs Understanding


“’You have the right to remain silent.’ That’s not hard to understand,” he (Hudson Police Chief Richard Gendron) said. “What you say can be used against you in a court of law.’ That’s not hard to understand, either.”


Yet some immigrants still talk to police because of an insurmountable language and culture gap, Mirhashem said. They can’t shake the cultural expectation that they must cooperate, regardless of individual rights, he said.


“That’s something definitely seen in numerous cases. People say, ‘Of course I had to talk, it’s the police.’”


Does the ability to speak English guarantee the understanding of the Miranda rights? Does coming from a different cultural background create misunderstanding when the paths of immigrants and law enforcement officials cross one another?


These and other questions are raised in a July 8 Nashua Telegraph article by writer Andrew McKeon. McKeon cites a Kenyan native, Esther Ngari, who twice waived her Miranda rights and issued statements regarding an 18-month-old child in her care that fell ill after swallowing prescription medication. Immigration advocates and attorneys quoted in the article believe that cultural and language barriers can often prevent immigrants from truly understanding their legal rights.


You can read the complete article on our Web site,



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