Legal Interpreting Guidelines in Iowa

Legal Language Services ranks Iowa as a state with moderately regulated legal interpreting requirements.

Your legal interpreter must have the appropriate level of certification that meets your language needs. This is especially true if you require a court interpreter.

This does not mean, however, that you should hire a certified interpreter for every situation. Whether or not an interpreter is certified — let alone the level of certification — will have an effect on how much you are charged for legal interpreting services.

Do You Need a Certified Interpreter?

Due to the added cost of certified professionals, it may not be a sound strategy to use certified legal interpreters if certification is not legally required for your proceeding. In fact, some situations may not benefit from certified interpreters. In particular, where subject matter expertise and/or special skills are required, certification may be a secondary consideration in securing a competent interpreter.

As previously noted, non-certified legal interpreters can provide professional interpreting services at a more affordable price. As in other states, a certified interpreter will command a higher fee for legal interpreting services. Prices will be affected based on the level of certification.

Legal Language can help you determine the best interpreter, certified or otherwise, for your legal interpreting needs in Iowa.

Requirements for Certified Interpreters in Iowa

Iowa state authorities periodically offer exams, both written and oral, for certification based on the guidelines of the Consortium for State Court Interpreter Certification.

The state of Iowa also accepts certification from member states of the Consortium for State Court Interpreter Certification and NAJIT (National Association of Judiciary Interpreters & Translators).

Iowa offers certification in 20 languages:

  • Arabic
  • Bosnian
  • Cantonese
  • Chuukese
  • French
  • Haitian Creole
  • Hmong
  • Ilocano
  • Korean
  • Laotian
  • Mandarin
  • Marshallese
  • Polish
  • Portuguese
  • Russian
  • Serbo-Croatian
  • Somali
  • Spanish
  • Turkish
  • Vietnamese

Classification of Interpreters in Iowa

The Iowa State Administrative Office of the Courts defines legal interpreters in the following four ways:

  • Certified: Certification is the highest level of formal accreditation. Certified interpreters must pass both written and oral interpreting examinations related to the language with focus on interpreting in a court setting, attend mandatory classes, pass a criminal background check and take the interpreter oath.
  • Non-Certified: An interpreter who has not achieved certification but has met minimum requirements and: is certified in another state, or has completed an approved court interpreter training program with a GPA of at least a 3.0, or has taken an approved certification exam and achieved a score of at least 65 percent on each part of the exam.
  • Non-Certified, Roster: An interpreter who has not achieved certification or registration but has met minimum requirements to be placed on the statewide roster of interpreters to be considered for court interpreting assignments when a certified or registered interpreter is not available.
  • Non-Certified, Non-Roster: An interpreter who has not achieved certification or registration and has not met minimum requirements to be placed on the statewide roster of interpreters.

Not all venues in Iowa require certified interpreters, even for Spanish-language cases. Please consult with Legal Language Services for the rules pertaining to your specific venue and language.

Common Languages Spoken in Iowa

According to a recent American Community Survey, approximately 6.81% of the Iowa population speaks a language other than English.

What’s more, more than 82% of the non-English speaking population in Iowa speaks one of the following 10 languages:

Common Languages Spoken in Iowa

  • Spanish
  • German
  • Vietnamese
  • Chinese*
  • Serbo-Croatian
  • French
  • Arabic
  • Laotian
  • Korean
  • Pennsylvania Dutch
Iowa courthouse - legal interpreting guidelines

Other languages spoken in Iowa include Hindi, Tagalog, Telugu, Russian, Thai, Dutch, Japanese, Urdu, Czech, Kru/Ibo/Yoruba, Cushite, Polish, Algonquian, Norwegian, Swahili, Turkish and other specified African languages.

*This table was created based on respondents’ written answers, the majority of whom wrote “Chinese” while others specified “Cantonese” or “Mandarin.”

Judicial Districts in Iowa

There are 8 judicial districts in Iowa that encompass 99 counties. Certification requirements in Iowa are statewide and remain consistent across all local jurisdictions. However, the way they handle interpreter appointments may vary.

  • 1st Judicial District of Iowa
    Counties: Allamakee, Black Hawk, Buchanan, Chickasaw, Clayton, Delaware, Dubuque, Fayette, Grundy, Howard, Winneshiek
  • 2nd Judicial District of Iowa
    Counties: Boone, Bremer, Butler, Calhoun, Carroll, Cerro Gordo, Floyd, Franklin, Greene, Hamilton, Hancock, Hardin, Humboldt, Marshall, Mitchell, Pocahontas, Sac, Story, Webster, Winnebago, Worth, Wright
  • 3rd Judicial District of Iowa
    Counties: Buena Vista, Cherokee, Clay, Crawford, Dickinson, Emmet, Ida, Lyon, Kossuth, Monona, O’Brien, Osceola, Palo Alto, Plymouth, Sioux, Woodbury
  • 4th Judicial District of Iowa
    Counties: Audubon, Cass, Fremont, Harrison, Mills, Montgomery, Page, Pottawattamie, Shelby
  • 5th Judicial District of Iowa
    Counties: Adair, Adams, Clarke, Dallas, Decatur, Guthrie, Jasper, Lucas, Madison, Marion, Polk, Ringgold, Taylor, Union, Warren, Wayne
  • 6th Judicial District of Iowa
    Counties: Benton, Iowa, Johnson, Jones, Linn, Tama
  • 7th Judicial District of Iowa
    Counties: Cedar, Clinton, Jackson, Muscatine, Scott
  • 8th Judicial District of Iowa
    Counties: Appanoose, Davis, Des Moines, Henry, Jefferson, Keokuk, Lee, Louisa, Mahaska, Monroe, Poweshiek, Van Buren, Wapello, Washington

Call Legal Language Services at 1-800-788-0450 to find Iowa interpreters who meet state interpreting rules for courtroom trials, hearings, depositions, arbitrations and other legal proceedings.

Please Note

The content provided on this page is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. The information about legal interpreting guidelines in Iowa is believed to be accurate at the time of posting; however, Legal Language Services is not responsible for any errors or omissions.