Will the Court Provide an Interpreter?
Communication barriers should never be a deciding factor in court cases, which is why Florida courts provide qualified interpreters for individuals who are deaf or limited in their English speaking proficiency.
If you are unsure whether a Florida court will provide a court interpreter for your case, here are the facts to know.
Florida Laws Allows Interpreter Services for Deaf Persons
Section 90.6063 of the 2016 Florida Statutes makes clear that Florida’s legislature is concerned with protecting the legal rights of its deaf citizens. To that end, this statute aims to provide appropriate and effective interpreter services for deaf individuals.
The statute defines a deaf person as “any person whose hearing is so seriously impaired” that their impairment prohibits them from understanding oral communications spoken in a normal, conversational tone.
Anyone who qualifies as deaf under this definition will have a qualified interpreter appointed to assist with court proceedings. Florida law defines a qualified interpreter in this context as an interpreter who meets any of the following criteria:
- Is certified by the National Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf
- Is certified by the Florida Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf
- Is an interpreter whose qualifications are determined to meet the needs of the case by the appointing authority
Interpreters for Persons Who Have Limited Proficiency in English
As one of the most diverse states in the country, it perhaps comes as little surprise that more than 27% of Floridians speak other languages. Some of the more popular languages are Spanish, Spanish Creole, French Creole, German, Portuguese and Chinese.
With all these languages and such a diverse population, it stands to reason that many Floridians may go to court with a limited English proficiency. Florida courts have taken steps to protect the due process rights of these individuals, ensuring they have equal access in Florida courts.
To achieve this, state courts follow federal regulations and guidelines for providing spoken language interpreters to limited-English-proficient persons upon request.
Traditionally, Florida courts require a court interpreter to have the proper level of certification to meet the needs of a given case. Florida has three levels of interpreter classification, which are as follows:
- Provisionally Approved (lowest level of classification)
- Language-Skilled Interpreter (intermediate level)
- Certified Interpreter (highest level)
However, recent changes to court interpreter requirements leave some worried that access to reporter services may be harmed. The Florida Supreme Court recently approved new rules that require court interpreters to register with the state, pay fees and take courses.
While this sounds good in theory, the reality is that these fees can cost $1,000, which would outweigh the earnings of a court reporter who translates for less common languages in the state. Specifically, a recent case where Mayan translation was needed caused a Florida court to look as far as Oregon to find a qualified interpreter.
It remains to be seen whether these new rules will actually harm a resident’s ability to access a qualified interpreter, despite the state’s intention to help. Regardless, residents are still entitled to have translation and interpreter services upon request, at least in theory.
If you have questions regarding custody and divorce, or are unaware as to the terms and conditions in, talk to, and retain, a Tampa family law attorney who can help. Contact Damien McKinney of The McKinney Law Group, your divorce lawyer Tampa, to discuss your case further. He can be reached by phone at 813-428-3400 or by e-mail at [email protected]