Prosecutor Must Provide Defendant with English-Language Transcript of Foreign-Language Interrogation
The Massachusetts Rules of Criminal Procedure require the prosecution, in every case, to disclose to the defense, at or prior to the pretrial conference, any written or recorded statements made by the defendant. In general, the prosecution can fulfill this obligation by providing defense counsel with an audio copy of a recorded statement. No transcript or translation is required, unless the prosecution wants to introduce the statement as evidence at trial. In that instance, the prosecutor’s obligation depends on the language in which the statement is made. If you made statements to law enforcement in a foreign language, and the government is trying to use those statements as evidence against you, talk to a Boston criminal defense lawyer about your rights. Here is a brief overview:
If the defendant’s recorded statement was made in English, the audio recording may be admitted into evidence on its own. The prosecution may choose to provide jurors with a written transcript, but is not required to do so. When the statement is in English, jurors are trusted to listen to the recording and make up their own minds as to the statement’s meaning and significance. If, however, the prosecution chooses to provide jurors with a transcript, then it also must provide a transcript to the defense.
If the defendant’s recorded statement was made in a foreign language, then the prosecutor must provide an English-language transcript in order for the statement to be admitted as evidence at trial. The prosecution cannot rely on the jurors’ understanding of the foreign language; nor should the defendant be forced to rely on the testimony of the interrogating officer, whose translation and interpretation of the questions and answers in a foreign-language interrogation could be very different from the defendant’s. The English-translation transcript must be provided to the defense in advance of the trial or hearing, giving the defendant enough time to try to resolve any questions regarding the accuracy of the translation. If the Defendant contests the accuracy of the prosecution’s translation, the defendant may offer into evidence his own translation. Jurors can then be instructed as to how to deal with any discrepancies between the two transcripts. The initial burden of creating a transcript lies solely with the prosecution. If the prosecution “chooses not to invest the time, money, or effort necessary to provide an English-language transcript,” then it must deal with the consequences – exclusion of the defendant’s recorded statement from evidence.
Contact Boston Criminal Defense Attorney, Kevin J. Mahoney
Being arrested, interrogated and charged with a crime is a frightening experience; particularly, if English is not your native language. If you are facing criminal charges, Boston criminal defense attorney Kevin J. Mahoney has staff available who speak Portuguese, Spanish, and French. Please call (617) 492-0055 to schedule a free initial consultation.