Criminal Defense of Immigrants


§ 4.11 3. Witness Interpreter

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A witness interpreter interprets questions posed to and answers provided by a non-English-speaking witness for the benefit of the court, court personnel, all counsel, the jury, and all parties who do not speak the language in which the witness is testifying.[31]  This function is separate from the functions of the defense interpreter and the proceedings interpreter.


                A defense interpreter cannot simultaneously serve as a witness interpreter, since to do so would infringe the client’s right to consult with counsel during the testimony, which is a particularly important phase of the proceedings.  The defendant must be able to communicate at any time during the testimony of a witness to alert counsel to falsehoods in the testimony, and it is unreasonable to expect the defendant to store these up for later recall and communication.  Therefore, the court must provide a witness interpreter separate from the defense interpreter.

[31] 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).