Today's Law As Amended

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AB-618 Court interpreters.(2011-2012)

As Amends the Law Today

 The Legislature hereby finds and declares all of the following:
(a) California is one of the most linguistically diverse states in the nation. As language diversity in California continues to increase, there continues to be a decline in the availability of qualified court interpreters in the state courts. As a result, the state faces a persistent shortage of professionally certified interpreters, which threatens the state’s ability to ensure access to justice and equality under the law for all court users, including parties, witnesses, and victims.
(b) Court interpreter services in criminal matters are a right — not a privilege — guaranteed by the United States and California Constitutions and statutory law. These services not only assist the defendant in a criminal matter, but also witnesses and victims, prosecutors, defense attorneys, and law enforcement.
(c) The consequences of not having sufficiently qualified interpreters in the courts are well documented and can lead to costly mistakes, not only for the parties to a proceeding resulting in wrongful or erroneous decisions, but also the court system in terms of delay, waste, and duplication of proceedings relating to these avoidable errors.
(d) Meeting the legal equivalence standard in interpreting court proceedings is an extremely difficult task that demands a high level of language proficiency in two languages as well as specialized cognitive and interpreting skills. Individuals who possess the necessary proficiency and skill level to be court interpreters are a scarce resource. Ensuring an adequate supply of court interpreters can and must be accomplished without sacrificing essential standards for certification.

SEC. 2.

 Article 4.5 (commencing with Section 68570) is added to Chapter 2 of Title 8 of the Government Code, to read:

Article  4.5. California Language Access Bill of Rights
 This article shall be known, and may be cited, as the California Language Access Bill of Rights.
 (a) A person who is unable to understand English, and who is charged with a crime, has the right to a competent interpreter provided by the court to provide exclusive and ongoing interpretation services throughout the proceedings. This includes a right not to share an interpreter with a witness. The person charged with the crime is also entitled to a separate interpreter not to be shared with a codefendant during any trial proceeding, including jury instructions, and in any proceeding, as required by law, at which witnesses are called and testimony is taken. Any rights pursuant to this subdivision may be waived as described in subdivision (d).
(b) A person who is charged with a crime, and for whom a noncertified, nonregistered interpreter has been appointed pursuant to subdivision (c) of Section 68561, subdivision (d) of Section 68564, or Section 71802, has a right to object to the interpreter at any time during the proceeding that the interpreter appears to be unqualified. The court shall record in the minute order or docket all information required by court rule and any other applicable law. The court shall follow all procedures required pursuant to court rule.
(c) Notwithstanding any other provision of this article, a noninterpreter staff person of the court, or any person employed by the sheriff, probation department, prosecutor, jail, or corrections department of the prosecuting city or county shall not provide interpreter services during a proceeding under this section. This subdivision shall not be construed to negate or modify the circumstances under which a court has the authority to appoint a noncertified interpreter.
(d) The rights provided by this section may only be waived expressly by the person charged if the waiver is affirmatively shown to be intelligent and voluntary.