How language barriers can lead to rights violations after an arrest

On Behalf of | Oct 10, 2023 | Criminal Defense

There are thousands of Spanish-speaking individuals living in the Greensboro, North Carolina area. Many of those people are at a disadvantage when they experience brushes with the legal system, in no small part because those who are arrested may not be able to properly assert their rights if they can’t communicate effectively with police officers.

English is a very difficult language to learn, and many people struggle to understand all of their rights when English is not their first language. During an interaction with police officers or federal investigators, a language barrier could potentially cause major issues. In some cases, an inability to effectively communicate might lead to a violation of someone’s rights. That violation might then influence someone’s options for defending against criminal charges.

Officers may fail to properly inform people of their rights

One of the most basic rights of those in police custody is the right to remain silent. They also have the right to request legal representation and advice. Unfortunately, people may forget those rights or be unaware of them at the beginning of an encounter with police officers.

For decades, crucial legal precedent has mandated that officers preparing to question someone already in state custody inform them of their rights. The Miranda warning provides notice to a suspect under arrest that they have the right to remain silent and also the right to have an attorney present when talking with the police. If people don’t understand those rights, they won’t be able to use them.

This right is so important that police departments and federal investigators have to translate that information for someone who does not speak English. The failure to provide someone with the Miranda warning before questioning them could limit the usefulness of any confession or other evidence obtained during questioning. An attorney could challenge such evidence by pointing out the violation of someone’s Miranda Rights by the officers.

Those facing a criminal investigation, especially when there is a language barrier or cultural differences, may fail to use their rights properly and could end up at a legal disadvantage as a result. Understanding one’s rights before an arrest and recognizing a violation of a right after an arrest might help individuals to put together a more effective criminal defense strategy. Seeking experienced legal guidance is a good way to get started in this regard.