Jeronimo Botello-Rosales recently had his conviction overturned by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, based in San Francisco, after it ruled that the Miranda warnings offered to the prisoner were not correctly translated into Spanish. The Court has decided that a couple of mistakes in the translation of Miranda warnings prevented the police officers who arrested him from properly conveying Botello-Rosales’s rights, even though the detective had already read him his rights in English. The case is another example of the importance of language and appropriate translations, as they are the means through which the rights of citizens are generally conveyed.
The Background Case
Jeronimo Botello-Rosales was convicted in 2010 with possession of a firearm and conspiracy to manufacture marijuana after he confessed growing marijuana plants with a group of other people. When he was indicted in 2009, Botello-Rosales pleaded guilty and had since been in prison. After three years of his original ten year sentence, Botello-Rosales has now had his conviction overturned.
According to Botello-Rosales’s lawyer, Michael R. Levine, the linguistic problem was discovered after an interpreter, who was off-duty and happened to be in the courtroom during a pre-trial, noticed the mistakes in the translation of Botello-Rosales’s rights. The detective in charge of the arrest was asked to recall the translated Miranda warning and the interpreter pointed out two errors. The first one had to do with saying silence instead of silent in “You have the right to remain silent when questioned”. The second one is related to the right of having an attorney appointed if one cannot be afforded otherwise. Instead of using the word gratis, which in Spanish means “for free”, the detective said libre, which implies “freedom of action; to have freedom”.
The court therefore decided that the prisoner’s subsequent statements could not be taken into account as evidence in the trial. Botello-Rosales, who speaks no English, had pleaded guilty, making the trial heavily dependent on the prisoner’s confessions.
According to Kent Robinson, Oregon’s first assistant U.S. attorney, situations like this one will be taken into account in the future to avoid the linguistic misunderstanding from preventing the enforcement of the law.
The Miranda Warning
The Miranda warning or Miranda rights is provided by every police officer in the United States every time they arrest a suspect. They have to be given before interrogation if they want the suspects’ statements to be valid in further criminal proceedings. The aim of the Miranda warning is to protect the rights of individuals, particularly from the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.