Can a Guilty or No Contest Plea be Overturned if the Person was not Provided an Interpreter?

Article I, section 14 of the California Constitution provides that “[a] person unable to understand English who is charged with a crime has a right to an interpreter throughout the proceedings.”  Failure of a trial court to make inquiries regarding the defendant’s need for an interpreter can constitute error.   “‘An interpreter is needed … if a party is unable to understand and speak English sufficiently to comprehend the proceedings and to assist counsel in the conduct of the case.'” (People v. Aguilar (1984) 35 Cal.3d 785, 793.)  As with the right to the assistance of counsel, the right to the assistance of an interpreter necessarily implies the right to effective assistance.  (People v. Ledesma (1987) 43 Cal.3d 171, 215; People v. Alvarez (1996)14 Cal.4th 155, 239 [” ’counsel’ may embrace
an attorney’s agent, such as an interpreter.”].) A criminal Defendant can be denied that right when he was not given an interpreter who could effectively explain to him what was happening, and what defendant was supposedly agreeing to, on the day that he entered his guilty or no contest plea.  A Defendant’s confusion can no doubt compounded by the fact that, contrary to the requirements of Pen. Code sections 1017 and 1018 that a defendant personally state that they are changing their plea to guilty or no contest.  If a defendant enters a plea of guilty or no contest without an interpreter that plea can be set aside with the help of new counsel by way of a motion to vacate the conviction or withdraw the plea, particularly when the person is now facing deportation or immigration consequences as a result of such Court action.

About thetorranceattorney

Matthew Ruff is a Torrance criminal defense attorney located near the 405 freeway on Crenshaw Blvd. Focusing on DUI and serious criminal cases for over twenty years. In addition to criminal cases, Matthew also defends clients at the DMV.
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