Legal English 11

Example: A humorous example of police officer distortion occurred in the 1992 comedy film, My Cousin Vinny. In the film, a police officer questions a college student who has been arrested for killing a grocery store clerk. The stunned student, who at first thought that he had been arrested for shoplifting a can of tuna fish, repeats in a dazed, questioning voice, "I shot the clerk?" In court, however, the police officer makes it sound as if the student confessed to the murder by testifying that the student asserted, "I shot the clerk." In real life, of course, police distortion is no laughing matter.

Recording Statements Made to Police Officers

People who want to cooperate with police officers but fear that the police will distort their statements should at least insist that the police officers tape record the conversation or prepare a written summary of it for the person to sign. The tape or summary minimizes a police officer’s opportunity to distort at a later time. But there is a potential downside to having the statement recorded. Once the words are on tape, a defendant will have to live with them if the case goes to trial, rather than argue that the police got it wrong.

d. How Knowledgeable Am I About the Law Governing the Events About Which I’m Being Questioned?

People sometimes unwittingly provide evidence of their own guilt because they inaccurately believe that their behavior does not amount to criminal conduct. They may think they are explaining their innocence, while the police officers are using their explanation to amass evidence of a crime. For example, Moe gets into a fist fight with Curly, which results in a severe cut to Curly’s head. A police officer contacts Moe, seeking his version of the fight. Thinking that he acted in self-defense, Moe fully describes his version of events. However, as the police officer interprets Moe’s story, Moe used excessive force, and the officer arrests Moe for aggravated assault. Had Moe more clearly understood the law, he might not have talked to the police officer.


1.aggravated assault 加重企图伤害罪

2.shoplift 如店抢劫

3.downside 不利方面

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