International Journal of Speech Language and the Law, Vol 5, No 2 (1998)

Linguistic ambiguity in non-statuary language: problems in 'The search warrant in the matter of 7505 Derris Drive'

Bethany K. Dumas, Ann C. Short
Issued Date: 9 Mar 2007

Abstract


When a motion to suppress was filed in a federal prosecution, this question arose: Did the search warrant authorize the FBI to seize the evidence sought to be suppressed? The warrant described certain items that could be seized, including both accounting documents and items such as notes and memoranda. A linguist testified about the current meanings of the non-accounting terms and the scope of the modifying clauses, 'which will disclose the sale and receipt of automobiles, both rebuilt and salvage' and 'which will reveal the identities and location of co-conspirators'. This article summarizes the implications and context of those questions, presents the linguist's answers, and reports the judicial response.

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DOI: 10.1558/ijsll.v5i2.127

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