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Miranda warnings are lost in translation for Spanish speakers

Following a spate of high-profile arrests of Mexican immigrants, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in 2013 that police must provide a Spanish translation when reading the Miranda rights to non-English speaking immigrants. The court also ruled that the translation must be correct and intelligible.

That means if a Spanish speaking, non-English speaking suspect is arrested and tried, and it is later found that his or her Miranda rights were not properly read, all the testimony that he or she gave during the arrest should be dismissed.

But the rights of such suspects are not always properly protected, and some law enforcement and legal professionals have decided it's time to put more protection into place.

Garbled Translations Are Still A Serious Problem

Despite the 2013 legal provisions, many Mexican immigrants are still not having their rights read to them in a way they can understand according to the law - and their ignorance of the Miranda law is being used against them.

In a multitude of cases across the country, Spanish-speaking suspects have been read mistranslated versions of their Miranda rights. In 874,000 arrests annually, it is estimated that mistranslations have potentially violated the civil rights of defendants.

One Suspect's Story

According to Fronteras, Jeronimo Botello-Rosales was arrested in 2008 and charged with drug-related crimes and illegal possession of a firearm. On arrest, Botello-Rosales had his rights read to him in English and in Spanish. Officers claimed he waived his rights before offering several mia culpas.

His lawyer, Michael Levine, filed a motion to dismiss Botello-Rosales' statements. Levine had a court interpreter review the Spanish-language warning that had been read by the arresting officer in court. The detective had garbled the translation with an incorrect translation of the word "free," which indicated "without payment," rather than "not under the control of another."

Botello-Rosales, it was later revealed, believed that he was being told that if he could not afford an attorney, he would be subjected to much harsher treatment. The confession he gave was deemed coerced, since he believed he would be at the mercy of a police force that only wanted to extort money from him. The result was a miscarriage of legal procedure that would not be remedied for some time.

So What Can Be Done?

The American Bar Association recently voted to provide additional safeguards to prevent the problem of mistranslated Miranda rights. Even now, there is no way to know how many cases might have gone undetected.

If you are ever arrested or charged with a crime in Oregon, the best possible thing to do is to get a criminal defense lawyer involved right away. A skilled attorney can help ensure that your rights are protected - no matter what language you speak.

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