Language and law "come together" in very important ways, according to Lawrence Solan and Peter Tiersma. These scholars focus on criminal law, and especially on the way that the criminal justice system continues to function according to "deeply entrenched notions about language." These come to the forefront in a number of different ways. For example, accused criminals, jurors, and police officers may not understand legal terminology in the same way as other legal professionals. The consequences of this can be profound—confessions may be illegally obtained, and imprecise language can lead to the accused being acquitted on technicalities.
Two examples the authors give are related to the issue of "consent," or "requesting" legal counsel, which are decidedly slippery terms. Further issues are related to using spoken words as evidence. The authors point to several important cases involving linguistics. Some of these are very famous, including Miranda v. Arizona, in which the right of the accused to be informed of their rights was established.
In Schneckloth v. Bustamonte, the authors illustrate the issues related to giving consent to be searched by a police officer. They later cite problems arising from using language to indicate intent, especially when it is implied in conversations. In one California case called People v. King, for example, the jury had to determine from very (deliberately) vague language in a recorded conversation whether there was an intent to bribe a public official. Similarly, what constitutes a threat is tied up in the contexts that give language meaning. In short, the authors argue that understanding linguistics is essential to understanding the criminal law in practice—almost any criminal case, they show, involves linguistic analysis in one way or another.