Study Finds Another Reason to Be Wary of Tasers

They could lead to false confessions, researchers say
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 8, 2016 2:50 PM CST
Study Finds Another Reason to Be Wary of Tasers
A police chief demonstrates a Taser in Brattleboro, Vt.   (AP Photo/Toby Talbot)

People have died after being Tased, and now a new study finds another reason to be wary of Tasers: The weapons may lead to false confessions. Criminology researchers actually found 142 people willing to be Tased—most of them were college students, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports—and then used a Taser on half of them for five seconds. The subjects were then given verbal learning tests, and those who had been stunned said they felt overwhelmed, anxious, and had a hard time concentrating. "People who get tased look a lot like 78-year-olds suffering from mild cognitive impairment and, in some cases, even patients with dementia," the lead researcher says. What does that mean? After getting shocked, people may be less likely to understand their Miranda rights and/or more likely to give a false confession to police, Ars Technica reports.

In some cases, the effects of the Taser took a week to wear off, but in most cases, the subjects were back to normal within an hour, so researchers suggest police be required to wait at least an hour between Tasing a suspect and questioning him. The Justice Department-funded study is the first randomized controlled trial of Tasers not done by the manufacturer, and it was carried out after lawyers in Arizona argued that their clients' confessions should be thrown out because they were unable to "knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily" waive their Miranda rights, which include the right to remain silent and the right to have an attorney present during interrogation, after being Tased. As the researchers note, suspects who are drunk, on drugs, or mentally ill when Tased—or suspects who are Tased multiple times—might experience even greater levels of impairment. (This guy was ordered by a judge to wear a "shock belt.")

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