Criminal Defense of Immigrants


§ 4.24 C. Preparation of Interpreter

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Counsel should meet with the interpreter in advance, and brief the interpreter concerning the nature of the case, the charges against the defendant, the defendant’s background, the factual situation underlying the case, and any other pertinent information concerning the case or the defendant that will help the interpreter understand the situation.  Counsel may also choose to provide the interpreter with a copy of the charges against the client, the police reports, motions, or other documents concerning which the interpreter will need in order to translate questions and answers during an interview or in court.  Counsel should furnish the interpreter with as much documentation as possible prior to trial, including indictments or complaints, and expert reports.  Jury instructions in particular often contain a great deal of frozen language, archaic usage, and terms of art, and present highly technical and complex legal issues. All of these factors combine to make the reading of jury instructions one of the most difficult tasks for an interpreter.


In the first interview, counsel should introduce the interpreter to the client and allow the interpreter to speak briefly with the client in the presence of the attorney, before proceeding with the interview or court proceeding to make sure that the interpreter and client can readily understand one another.  Counsel should advise the client or witness that s/he should immediately notify the attorney if s/he experiences any difficulty in understanding the interpreter, or the interpreter seems to have any difficulty understanding the client.