A Miranda warning given in both English and Spanish to a Spanish-speaking suspect is insufficient if a police officer’s translation fails to convey the true meaning of the arrested person’s rights, a federal appeals court decided Monday.
The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a drug and gun conviction on the grounds that a district judge erred by admitting comments made by the suspect after he was given the Miranda warning in English and poor Spanish.
The San Francisco-based appeals court said that the warning “failed to reasonably convey the government’s obligation to appoint an attorney for an indigent suspect who wishes to consult one.”
The detective used the Spanish word “libre” to mean without cost. But expert witnesses said that was an incorrect translation. “Libre” instead means free as “in being available or at liberty to do something,” the court said.
The ruling overturned the conviction of Jeronimo Botello-Rosales for conspiracy to manufacture marijuana and possession of a firearm by a person unlawfully in the United States. Botello-Rosales had entered a conditional guilty plea but reserved the right to withdraw it pending the results of his appeal.
The ruling stemmed from a Portland case applies to police in California and other western states.
Sitting on the 9th Circuit panel that reached the decision were Judges Harry Pregerson, appointed by President Carter; Kim McLane Wardlaw, a Bill Clinton appointee; and Milan D. Smith, Jr., appointed by former President George W. Bush.