The English language is one of the most difficult to learn. Even those who grow up knowing nothing but English are often confused by certain phrases, words and grammar rules. If Spanish is your primary language, you may find yourself learning new English vocabulary and idioms each day. However, when police are reading you your Miranda rights, this is the wrong time to try to understand unfamiliar terms.
After Mexico, the United States has the largest population of Spanish speakers in the world. Nevertheless, the statement explaining your rights when you are in police custody does not have a uniform translation, and without an accurate warning of how you can protect your rights, you may be in danger of losing them.
When police arrest you, they must inform you of certain constitutional rights known as Miranda rights. This law resulted from Miranda v. Arizona, a U.S. Supreme Court decision made 50 years ago, and is so crucial to the protection of individual rights that any evidence police gain without advising you of your Miranda rights is inadmissible in court. Those rights include the following:
- You do not have to answer any questions or say anything to investigators.
- The prosecution can use anything you say against you in court.
- You have the right to legal counsel.
- The court will provide an attorney if you can't afford one.
- Police must verify that you heard and understood these rights before they can interrogate you.
The American Bar Association estimates that almost 900,000 Spanish translations of the Miranda warning are used each year, and often, these translations contain inaccuracies. Many times, police officers with a passing grasp of the Spanish language translate the Miranda warnings making critical mistakes. In some jurisdictions, the police force carries printed cards with an unofficial translation, and these frequently contain errors in vocabulary or confusing grammar.
Your freedom on the line
If you did not understand the Spanish translation of your Miranda rights, you may have offered incriminating evidence without meaning to. While the ABA has agreed that a standard Spanish translation is necessary, you probably know that the Spanish language changes with dialects and regions. Additionally, the officer who reads even a standard translation may not accurately pronounce the translation.
Your rights are at risk from the first moment of your encounter with law enforcement. To ensure the protection of your rights, you would benefit from an attorney who will advocate for you every step of the way.