Criminal Defense of Immigrants


§ 4.12 4. Separate Interpreters

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Counsel must pay close attention to the number of different interpreters that are constitutionally and practically necessary at different stages of the proceedings.  See § 4.30, infra.  At the beginning of trial, it is necessary to educate the court as to the total number of different interpreters that will be needed on an on-going basis:


                (1)  Each defendant who needs one must have his or her own, separate defense interpreter. 


                (2)  There must be one additional proceedings interpreter to translate the English proceedings into the defendants’ language as they occur.  One proceedings interpreter can translate into one foreign language for multiple defendants at the same time.  In other words, each defendant does not need both a separate defense interpreter and a separate proceedings interpreter.  The defense interpreter, however, cannot also serve as proceedings interpreter unless the court is willing to pause the proceedings every time counsel needs the full attention of the interpreter to translate an attorney-client conversation. 


                (3)  Every time a non- or limited-English speaking witness testifies, the court must provide a separate witness interpreter to translate the foreign-language testimony into English for the benefit of all in court.  A witness interpreter cannot simultaneously serve as a defense interpreter.


                (4)  During the proceedings, counsel must continuously monitor the proceedings to ensure that each essential interpreter function is being served as necessary.  This may involve halting the proceedings until the appropriate additional interpreter can be present, or halting the proceedings to allow one interpreter to stop performing one function, so s/he can perform another essential function, and then resume proceedings when the need for the interruption passes.