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Court: Bad Miranda translation requires new trial

Jul 15, 2013


By The Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO — Criminal defendants must have their Miranda rights precisely translated into Spanish if that is their first language, a federal appeals court affirmed Monday in overturning the marijuana and weapons convictions of an Oregon man who received an incorrect rendition.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a federal trial judge improperly refused to suppress statements Jeronimo Botello-Rosales gave to Yamhill County sheriff's detectives after receiving the faulty Spanish warning and a proper Miranda reading in English.

“The Spanish-language warning administered to the defendant failed to reasonably convey his Miranda rights,” a three-judge panel said in an opinion first issued in April but published for the first time Monday. “The fact that the officer had previously administered correct Miranda warnings in English does not cure the constitutional infirmity, absent government clarification as to which set of warnings was correct.”

The panel said Botello-Rosales is therefore entitled to withdraw the guilty plea he entered to federal drug charges.

According to court documents, the detective doing the translating was a native Spanish speaker who gave the following translation of the familiar list of admonitions criminal defendants receive at the time of their arrests:

“You have the right to remain silence. Anything you say can be used against you in the law. You have the right to talk to a lawyer and to have him present with you during the interview. If you don't have the money to pay for a lawyer, you have the right. One, who is free, could be given to you.”

The appeals court found that apart from shaky grammar, the part of the Miranda warning about the suspect being entitled to a court-appointed lawyer was off because the detective used the Spanish version of the word “free” that means “available, at liberty” instead of “at no cost.”

“This warning failed to reasonably convey the government's obligation to appoint an attorney for an indigent suspect who wishes to consult one,” the 9th Circuit said.

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