Under Section 1-202 of the Criminal Procedure Article, an interpreter will be appointed for a criminal defendant when the defendant can’t readily understand or communicate in English and can’t understand the charge or help with his or her defense. The court is required to appoint a spoken language interpreter when it determines a defendant doesn’t understand English well enough to participate in the proceedings or help his or her attorney, or where the defendant or a witness doesn’t speak English sufficiently to be understood by the attorneys, the court, and the jury.
In a recent case, a defendant sought review of a judgment that affirmed his conviction for sexual abuse of a minor, second-degree rape, and third-degree sexual offense. An intermediate appellate court had affirmed the lower court’s judgment. The defendant had come to the U.S. from Ghana four years before he was convicted and argued that the trial judge should have appointed an interpreter for his criminal trial. He asked the appellate court to review whether it was appropriate for the lower court to deny him an interpreter that he had requested.
The appellate court explained that the decision to appoint an interpreter is a two-part process. The first issue is whether the trial judge’s factual findings are clearly erroneous. If they aren’t, the reviewing court must then decide whether the judge abused his discretion in deciding whether or not to appoint the interpreter. Continue reading →