Criminal Defense of Immigrants


§ 4.8 C. Functions of an Interpreter

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Interpreters are essential to the fair trial of a defendant who does not speak fluent English.  Before trial, the interpreter’s most important function is to assist attorney and client to communicate.  At trial, interpreters may serve in three principal capacities: (1) interpret­ing communications between client and attorney (a “defense” interpreter); (2) interpreting the proceedings from English into the defendant’s language (a “proceedings” interpreter); and (3) interpreting questions posed to and answers provided by a non-English-speaking witness (a “witness” interpreter).[27]  An interpreter may also communicate to the court any errors made by another interpreter at trial, or offer expert testimony.[28]

[27] People v. Carreon, 198 Cal. Rptr. 843, 846 n.1 (Cal. Ct. App. 1984); Martinez Chavez v. State, 534 N.E.2d 731, 737 (Ind. 1989); Molina v. State, 621 N.E.2d 1137, 1140 (Ind. Ct. App. 1993); State v. Santiago, 556 N.W.2d 687, 694 (Wis. 1996); State v. Neave, 344 N.W.2d 181, 183 n.2 (Wis. 1984).

[28] Santiago, 556 N.W.2d at 695 n.21.