Nebraska Revised Statute 25-2401
Interpreters; public policy.
It is hereby declared to be the policy of this state that the constitutional rights of persons unable to communicate the English language cannot be fully protected unless interpreters are available to assist such persons in legal proceedings. It is the intent of sections 25-2401 to 25-2407 to provide a procedure for the appointment of such interpreters to avoid injustice and to assist such persons in their own defense.
- Laws 1973, LB 116, § 1;
- Laws 1987, LB 376, § 11;
- Laws 2002, LB 22, § 8.
A defendant does not waive his due process rights by failing to request an interpreter. But the absence of such request by a defendant or defense counsel is a fact relevant to whether the court should have recognized on its own that the defendant needed interpretative services. State v. Bol, 294 Neb. 248, 882 N.W.2d 674 (2016).
Even though a defendant might not speak grammatically correct English, where the record satisfactorily demonstrates that such defendant had a sufficient command of the English language to understand questions posed and answers given, a court does not abuse its discretion in refusing to appoint an interpreter. State v. Bol, 294 Neb. 248, 882 N.W.2d 674 (2016).
Generally, a defendant in a criminal proceeding may be entitled to have an interpreter provided only where he or she timely requests one, or it is otherwise brought to the trial court's attention that the defendant or a witness has a language difficulty that may prevent meaningful understanding of, or communication in, the proceeding. State v. Bol, 294 Neb. 248, 882 N.W.2d 674 (2016).
The appointment of an interpreter for an accused at trial is a matter resting largely in the discretion of the trial court. State v. Bol, 294 Neb. 248, 882 N.W.2d 674 (2016).
Minor or isolated inaccuracies, omissions, interruptions, or other defects in translation are inevitable and do not warrant relief where the translation is on the whole reasonably timely, complete, and accurate, and the defects do not render the proceeding fundamentally unfair. Tapia-Reyes v. Excel Corp., 281 Neb. 15, 793 N.W.2d 319 (2011).
The requirement that an interpreter provide an accurate translation implicates a defendant's due process right to a fair trial as guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment, the ultimate question being whether the translator's performance has rendered the trial fundamentally unfair. Tapia-Reyes v. Excel Corp., 281 Neb. 15, 793 N.W.2d 319 (2011).
If a defendant understands and communicates reasonably well in the English language, the mere fact that such defendant might be able to accomplish self-expression a little better in another language does not warrant utilizing an interpreter at trial. State v. Topete, 221 Neb. 771, 380 N.W.2d 635 (1986).