Faulty translation voids man’s guilty plea in PCR appeal

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The Indiana Court of Appeals vacated a man’s guilty plea in a child molestation case Friday, granting post-conviction relief on the basis that he did not receive the assistance of an interpreter to help him understand his rights.

Israel Bautista asserted the post-conviction court erred by concluding that his guilty plea to two counts of Class A felony child molesting in 2012 was entered into knowingly, intelligently and voluntarily. “Specifically, he contends that the Spanish translation he received at his guilty plea hearing did not adequately communicate the three constitutional rights that he was waiving by pleading guilty as required by Boykin v. Alabama, 395 U.S. 238 (1969),” Judge Terry Crone wrote.

“Concluding that Bautista was not adequately advised of one of the Boykin rights, namely, the right to confront the witnesses against him, we reverse the denial of post-conviction relief and remand with instructions to vacate his guilty plea.”

The appeals panel noted Bautista was presented a guilty plea that was written in English, and one was not provided in Spanish. “Here, we conclude that the Spanish translation of the right to confrontation failed to accurately reflect the trial court’s advisement and meaningfully convey the substance of that right. (The interpreter) told Bautista he had the right to ‘ask questions and call witnesses in this case, and if you want witnesses to do-help in this case, they can call you and make the witness in this case.’

“… Accordingly, we conclude that Bautista carried his initial burden of demonstrating that at the guilty plea hearing he was not properly advised of his right to confront the witnesses against him,” the panel found.

The case is Israel Bautista v. State of Indiana, 20A-PC-1542.

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