Legal interpreters are an absolute requirement in situations such as the courtroom.
Interpreters make justice accessible for those who have limited English proficiency or are hearing-impaired.
What’s more, a lack of professional legal interpreting can lead to severe consequences.
Legal Interpreter Qualifications
Although the law is sometimes vague as to precise qualifications for legal interpreters in court settings, a defendant has the right to an interpreter who is competent and able to render accurate interpretations.
In any case, a professional legal interpreter has not only language fluency, but also knowledge of legal terminology and protocol. Colloquial, obscene, crude, slang, cultured and scholarly language must all be conveyed in accordance with the speaker’s usage.
A US legal interpreter must be able to understand the terms used in court proceedings, explain those terms in English and the second language, and be impartial in the legal proceeding.
Legal Interpreting Guidelines Differ by State
In many states, legal interpreters must meet certain requirements. In fact, jurisdictions within states may even have their own rules.
Some jurisdictions require certified interpreters. Certified interpreters, however, are not always best. Certified interpreters generally cost more, and experience with specialized legal vocabulary may be a better indicator of a truly professional legal interpreter anyway.
In other jurisdictions, court interpreters may be able to prove their qualifications through proof of educational training or life experience.
US states run the gamut with the intensity of their legal interpreting regulations.
Washington interpreters, for example, have heavily regulated legal interpreting requirements. There are three levels of interpreters: non-credentialed interpreters, registered interpreters and certified interpreters. Certified interpreters, the highest level of formal accreditation in Washington, must pass both written and oral interpreting exams, attend mandatory classes, pass a criminal background check and take an oath.
Vermont interpreters, on the other hand, have lightly regulated legal interpreting requirements. Vermont does not require certified interpreters for any legal proceeding.
Legal Interpreter Code of Conduct
Many jurisdictions require court interpreters to abide by an official code of conduct that reflects the requisite skills for an interpreter, as well as guidelines for how they are expected to act, dress and communicate in court.
In general, legal interpreters are required to accurately interpret, maintain an impartial attitude at all times while in court, and interpret only if they are proficient in legal language and procedures.
Professional Legal Interpreters Are a Must
Simply hiring any interpreter for a legal proceeding isn’t enough. Unqualified interpreters can lead to confusion, mistakes and mistrials.
Do what you can to avoid mistakes from the start. A language services provider like Legal Language Services will provide you with legal interpreters who have the appropriate experience and language fluency. Please contact Legal Language to find a professional legal interpreter who meets the rules and regulations in your jurisdiction.