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How dialect can impact a person's criminal case

African-Americans in Illinois and throughout the United States may sometimes speak in a language that is referred to as Ebonics. Its syntax and grammar patterns may be different than those used in more conventional forms of speaking. Therefore, it can be confusing for those who aren't familiar with it to understand what a person might be saying when using it. This can present problems for black Americans who are going through the legal system.

In 2010, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) asked for translators so that they could better understand people using this dialect. While some may believe that this form of speech is nothing more than slang, it should be seen as merely an alternate way of talking. By seeing it as less than a true language, it can be easy to misinterpret what people are saying. It can also be easier to simply not learn what a person may mean when using it.

In some cases, this could result in a person going to jail or prison even though there was no intent to commit a crime. If a person asks for a lawyer, anything said to police without one present is typically inadmissible. However, one man referred to a police officer as "dog." Therefore, it was determined that he had asked for a canine and his rights were essentially ignored.

Individuals who are charged with a crime have the right to a criminal defense attorney. If they cannot afford one, a public defender may be appointed to them. Regardless of who represents a defendant, legal counsel may be able to help a person obtain a favorable outcome in their case. This may be done by asserting that statements made indicated that there was no intent to commit a criminal act.

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