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Translating letter and getting it admitted

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September 02, 2018, 13:20
Jon English
Translating letter and getting it admitted
I'm prosecuting an inmate for a gang hit. We intercepted a prison letter he was sending to the outside world where he brags about it, but it's written in Spanish. Law enforcement translated it for us, but it wasn't done by a certified translator or anything.

What's the process for getting a translation of this letter admitted? Not just read out loud in court, but a hard-copy so the jury can take the translated letter back and read it?
September 04, 2018, 09:45
B Hyde
You might want to have it retranslated by a qualified translator so you can take advantage of rule of evidence 1009.

Rule 1009 Translating a Foreign Language Document
(a) Submitting a Translation. --A translation of a foreign language document is admissible if, at least 45 days before trial, the proponent serves on all parties:
(1) the translation and the underlying foreign language document; and
(2) a qualified translator's affidavit or unsworn declaration that sets forth the translator's qualifications and certifies that the translation is accurate.

(b) Objection. --When objecting to a translation's accuracy, a party should specifically indicate its inaccuracies and offer an accurate translation. A party must serve the objection on all parties at least 15 days before trial.

(c) Effect of Failing to Object or Submit a Conflicting Translation. --If the underlying foreign language document is otherwise admissible, the court must admit - and may not allow a party to attack the accuracy of - a translation submitted under subdivision (a) unless the party has:
(1) submitted a conflicting translation under subdivision (a); or
(2) objected to the translation under subdivision (b).

(d) Effect of Objecting or Submitting a Conflicting Translation. --If conflicting translations are submitted under subdivision (a) or an objection is made under subdivision (b), the court must determine whether there is a genuine issue about the accuracy of a material part of the translation. If so, the trier of fact must resolve the issue.

(e) Qualified Translator May Testify. --Except for subdivision (c), this rule does not preclude a party from offering the testimony of a qualified translator to translate a foreign language document.

(f) Time Limits. --On a party's motion and for good cause, the court may alter this rule's time limits.

(g) Court-Appointed Translator. --If necessary, the court may appoint a qualified translator. The reasonable value of the translator's services must be taxed as court costs.
September 11, 2018, 18:11

usually in those cases the Court has an attorney standing by because of all of the translation issues for witnesses / victims / defendants. So far (and I may be just lucky), the Court has always allowed me to publish the documents to the jury by having the Court's translator translate it to the jury. Now, I did have my own translation earlier and, if the Defense did not have it translated earlier it would probably be ineffective assistance, but, in the end, I believe that having the court's own interpreter publish it to the jury should work. You can even get impressions of the document from the witness, how they felt and etc prior to the translation. If I am wrong, I would love for someone to set me straight on this. :-)
September 11, 2018, 19:51
Jon English
It turns out the officer who originally translated the letter in the offense report is a certified translator. I was going to have her do a certified translation and see if I can admit that. This court is in a tiny county and getting a translator the day of trial is kind of a major pain.