ILNews

Solvent defendant must pay for interpreter

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2008
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A solvent, non-English speaking defendant in a criminal case must pay for a defense interpreter, but the court will continue to provide for proceedings interpreters at the public's expense, ruled the Indiana Supreme Court, upholding a previous decision by the Indiana Court of Appeals.

The high court granted transfer to Jesus Arrieta v. State of Indiana, No. 10S05-0704-CR-139, to determine whether Arrieta was entitled to a court-funded defense interpreter. Arrieta, who did not speak English, was charged with dealing cocaine, a Class A felony. Arrieta, who posted a $50,000 bond and hired an attorney for the hearing, received a court-appointed interpreter at his initial hearing June 14, 2005.

In late August 2005, the court advised Arrieta's attorney that Arrieta needed to hire his own interpreter at his expense for future hearings because the court does not provide interpreters unless the defendant can show indigency. Arrieta objected and showed up at his pre-trial hearing without one.

The trial court denied Arrieta's motion to provide translator services, which requested a publicly funded court interpreter for all future hearings. The court ruled Arrieta had the burden to show he is unable to pay for a translator, which he did not prove.

The Indiana Supreme Court granted transfer after the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court's decision.

Non-English speakers have a right to have court proceedings translated simultaneously to allow for effective participation. A non-English speaking criminal defendant's rights can't be preserved without the assistance of a "defense interpreter," wrote Chief Judge Randall T. Shepard. However, the public should not pay for the defense interpreter when the non-English speaking defendant is solvent.

Indiana statute doesn't address interpreter fees in criminal proceedings, but the high court agrees with the Indiana Court of Appeals that solvent defendants are not entitled to court-funded interpreters, at least in the absence of affirmative legislation, wrote Chief Justice Shepard.

Arrieta did not present any evidence that he was indigent and the only evidence on record about his financial ability is that he paid a $50,000 bond and hired his own attorney. He had ample opportunity to show his inability to pay, but did not, so Arrieta is required to pay for his own defense interpreter.

In regards to who should pay for proceedings interpreters, the Supreme Court again agreed with the Court of Appeals that these interpreters should be court-funded. Proceedings interpreters serve the whole court and are necessary to ensure intelligible and fair proceedings.

"Just as a trial cannot proceed without a judge or bailiff, an English-speaking court cannot consider non-English testimony without an interpreter," wrote Chief Justice Shepard. "This analogy suggests that the government should provide proceedings interpreters when necessary in criminal proceedings, whether the witness has been called by the prosecution or the defense, and we perceive this as the practice now prevailing."
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  1. Why in the world would someone need a person to correct a transcript when a realtime court reporter could provide them with a transcript (rough draft) immediately?

  2. If the end result is to simply record the spoke word, then perhaps some day digital recording may eventually be the status quo. However, it is a shallow view to believe the professional court reporter's function is to simply report the spoken word and nothing else. There are many aspects to being a professional court reporter, and many aspects involved in producing a professional and accurate transcript. A properly trained professional steno court reporter has achieved a skill set in a field where the average dropout rate in court reporting schools across the nation is 80% due to the difficulty of mastering the necessary skills. To name just a few "extras" that a court reporter with proper training brings into a courtroom or a deposition suite; an understanding of legal procedure, technology specific to the legal profession, and an understanding of what is being said by the attorneys and litigants (which makes a huge difference in the quality of the transcript). As to contracting, or anti-contracting the argument is simple. The court reporter as governed by our ethical standards is to be the independent, unbiased individual in a deposition or courtroom setting. When one has entered into a contract with any party, insurance carrier, etc., then that reporter is no longer unbiased. I have been a court reporter for over 30 years and I echo Mr. Richardson's remarks that I too am here to serve.

  3. A competitive bid process is ethical and appropriate especially when dealing with government agencies and large corporations, but an ethical line is crossed when court reporters in Pittsburgh start charging exorbitant fees on opposing counsel. This fee shifting isn't just financially biased, it undermines the entire justice system, giving advantages to those that can afford litigation the most. It makes no sense.

  4. "a ttention to detail is an asset for all lawyers." Well played, Indiana Lawyer. Well played.

  5. I have a appeals hearing for the renewal of my LPN licenses and I need an attorney, the ones I have spoke to so far want the money up front and I cant afford that. I was wondering if you could help me find one that takes payments or even a pro bono one. I live in Indiana just north of Indianapolis.

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