Criminal Defense of Immigrants


§ 4.9 1. Defense Interpreter

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In order to protect the client’s rights, and communicate effectively between lawyer and client, it is critical to obtain the assistance of a competent interpreter solely dedicated to translating between attorney and client.  Make sure the interpreter speaks the same language and dialect as the client, that the interpreter is competent, and that the client can affirmatively understand the interpreter.[29]


                The defense interpreter is part of the criminal defense team, and the same interpreter should be used throughout the case because an understanding of the case is essential to accurate interpretation.  The defense interpreter should attend all meetings between lawyer and client, and should be at counsel table between lawyer and client to interpret privately there throughout the proceedings.


                Because the interpreter is privy to confidential attorney-client communications, the attorney-client privilege extends to the interpreter.  See § 4.33, infra.  By the same token, the interpreter should not be allowed to serve as a witness against the client.  See § 4.34, infra.  Because the defense interpreter is part of the defense team, one interpreter cannot serve as defense interpreter for more than one defendant any more than one lawyer can serve as counsel to codefendants with potential conflicts of interest.  Therefore, each defendant who does not speak English fluently must be provided with an independent defense interpreter.

[29] For a more complete discussion on all issues regarding interpreters, see Chapter 2, Using Interpreters, J. Connell & R. Valladares, eds., cultural issues in criminal defense (Juris Publishing 2000); C. Crooker, the art of legal interpretation: A Guide for Court Interpreters (Portland State Univ. Press 1996).