Honors Program


Date of this Version

Spring 3-14-2022

Document Type



Hilgert, Caroline. "If I could have spoke with him, he probably wouldn’t be going to jail:' an Analysis of the Effect of Language Barriers on Fourth Amendment Protections. Undergraduate Honors Thesis. University of Nebraska-Lincoln. 2022.


Copyright Caroline Hilgert 2022.


This paper analyzes language barriers within police interactions, attempting to answer the question, “How do language barriers affect the protections afforded by the Fourth Amendment?” I argue that language barriers lessen the protections afforded by the Fourth Amendment. Using legal history to define consent in regard to the Fourth Amendment, I first develop a clearer picture of how consent has been treated by law enforcement in the past. Additionally, I preview how legally defined standards regarding the Fifth Amendment, or Miranda Rights, provide more protections for defendants. I then use a variety of court cases in which language barriers have been a significant factor in order to support my argument. Following my arguments, I preview some potential solutions, including police reforms and civic education reforms that could aid in mitigating the role that both language barriers and a lack of civic education have on the interactions non-English speakers have with law enforcement.