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Are we overdue for a uniform Spanish-language Miranda warning?

Even if you've never had any interaction with law enforcement or your interactions have been limited solely to the context of traffic stops, you still know that there are certain procedures that all police officers are legally obligated to follow.

For instance, you are more than likely aware that anyone who is arrested for any crime must be read a Miranda warning, which essentially informs a suspect of their right against self-incrimination under the Fifth Amendment and their right to counsel under the Sixth Amendment.

While the need to read suspects their rights, as established by the Supreme Court of the United States 50 years ago in the seminal case of Miranda v. Arizona, seems straightforward, experts indicate that problems are arising with increasing frequency for Spanish-speaking individuals being taken into custody.

What exactly is happening regarding Spanish-speaking individuals and their Miranda rights?  

According to a recent report from the American Bar Association's Special Committee on Hispanic Legal Rights and Responsibilities, law enforcement agencies across the U.S. use Spanish-language Miranda warnings in roughly 874,000 arrests per year.

However, there are a growing number of instances in which the Miranda warnings are being mistranslated or read incorrectly by law enforcement officials, thereby resulting in individuals failing to fully comprehend their constitutional rights.

How exactly are law enforcement officials making mistakes in this area?

The ABA report cites some truly baffling examples, including instances in which law enforcement officials resort to "Spanglish" or simply make up words.

Similarly, it highlights some cases in which the Miranda warnings are mistranslated to an egregious degree. For example, in one case an individual was informed of a "right to answer questions," while in another, an individual was informed of a "right not to say nothing."

Is there any movement afoot to help address this?

At the ABA's annual conference earlier this month, members voted unanimously to create a standardized Spanish-language Miranda warning and, once completed, to disseminate it among U.S. law enforcement agencies through both state attorneys general and local bar associations.

Would law enforcement agencies be receptive to this?

While it's still early, ABA officials believe that law enforcement agencies would likely prove receptive to using the standardized Spanish-language Miranda warning.

Stay tuned for updates …

If you are under investigation, or have been charged with any sort of felony or misdemeanor, consider speaking with an experienced legal professional who can protect your rights and your future. 

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Mathis, Bates & Klinghard PLLC
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Clarksville, TN 37040

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