The neurocognitive effects of a conducted electrical weapon compared to high intensity interval training and alcohol intoxication - implications for Miranda and consent

D Dawes, J Ho, A S Vincent, P Nystrom, B Driver
Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine 2018, 53: 51-57
While the physiologic effects of conducted electrical weapons (CEW) have been the subjects of numerous studies over nearly two decades, their effects on neurocognitive functioning, both short-term and long-term, have only recently been studied. In a 2014 study involving use-of-force scenarios, including a CEW scenario, we found that there was a decline in neurocognitive performance immediately post-scenario in all groups; however this effect was transient, of questionable clinical/legal significance, not statistically different between the groups, and, returned to baseline by one hour post-scenario. Two subsequent studies by other authors have also found transient neurocognitive effects in the immediate post-exposure period; however, in one study, the effect was greater in one measure (of 5) for the CEW compared to exertion, and the authors suggested that this effect could have implications for the Miranda waiver obtained before custodial interrogation as well as consent. In our current study, we compared the neurocognitive effects of an exposure to a CEW to another exertion regimen, as well as to alcohol intoxication given the latter has significant established case law with regard to the Miranda waiver and consent. Such a comparison may offer more insight into the clinical/legal significance of any measured changes. As with the prior studies, the neurocognitive performance decrements of the CEW and exertion regimens, found only in one measure in this study (of three), were transient, and here, non-significant. Only alcohol intoxication resulted in statistically significant performance declines across all measures and these were persistent over the study period. Given that the neurocognitive changes associated with the CEW were non-significant, but were significant for alcohol intoxication, and given that current case law does not use intoxication as a per se or bright line barrier to Miranda and consent, our results do not suggest that a CEW exposure should preclude waiving of Miranda rights or obtaining consent.

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