Translation and Interpretation for Cross Border Investigations and Trials

It doesn’t matter where you go – be it Michigan or Mexico – you will find people who don’t always speak the same language. Whether it’s a tourist or an immigrant worker who finds himself at odds with the law, sooner or later someone ends up being interrogated by police or before a judge without understanding a word that’s being said. In the United States we have laws that ensure that the court appoints a qualified interpreter in all legal proceedings in which the non-English speaking person is a party or a witness.


Translation and Interpretation is a necessary part of accurately and fairly determining the outcome of any case involving persons who do not share a language. Only a defendant who can communicate effectively in English without relying on another language to communicate his thoughts is not entitled to an interpreter under the Court Interpreters Act, 28 U.S.C. 1827(d)(1).


Legal Translation – Interagency Investigations and Cooperation


There are situations in which criminal activity spans borders of nations. This can happen when a suspect flees the country or possibly when a crime was ordered from a foreign location. In situations like this it is important to coordinate the resources of both agencies and effectively share information about the investigation. If a cadre of Mexican police charged across the border and started breaking down doors and grilling English speaking Americans in Spanish it would amount to no more than an international incident.


Cooperation is a must; we must rely on foreign police agencies to investigate their own citizens and only tread where invited. When sharing information between two law enforcement agencies with differing languages, a legal interpreting and translation service is required for all verbal and written evidence. This ensures that information is properly handled, archived, certified and held incorruptible.


Legal Translation – International Documentation of Evidence


Each country and province has its own procedures for legal matters as well as techniques for handling those legal issues. For these procedures to be understood when documents are shared (or information on techniques, etc.) an accurate and complete translation is usually required. Along with the translation of evidence there needs to be translation and interpretation of daily communications between the agencies.

In cases of kidnappings it could happen that the police speak one language and the criminals another. To negotiate the situation a highly skilled interpreter would need to be employed.


Forms of Evidence


Evidence and important materials take any conceivable form; among these are audio and video sources like interviews, interrogations, covert recordings/surveillance, phone conversations, and 911 calls. Text materials can include documents like summonses, passports, background checks, indictments, arrest warrants, affidavits, or evidentiary documents like ransom letters, correspondence, suicide notes, diaries, and much more. Text could also be in the form of images – such as a photograph or drawing of a logo, tattoo, or map. Nowadays websites are also important in law enforcement investigations and are likely to be translated for cross-border investigations. These things would be pretty much useless to an investigation if no one were available to translate their contents to the local language.


Cases like “Estate of Anastacio Hernandez-Rojas et al v. United States of America et al” are just one type of example showing how legal translation services might be needed. As citizens of Mexico the plaintiffs may or may not speak English like American citizens may or may not speak Spanish. In this case a man’s family has sued the United States in a wrongful death and civil right violation suit over an altercation at the border. Because the case involved American service personnel and citizens as well as citizens of Mexico Spanish translation is necessary for these proceedings to continue effectively.


The government has many linguists on the payroll but not always enough to handle their needs – especially with less common languages. So whether law enforcement agencies, the courts, or other government agencies or private security companies need to communicate about a case across a language barrier, professional translation and interpretation services are vital.




TransDual Forensics provides law enforcement and criminal justice transcription and translation services to law enforcement agencies, attorneys, private investigators, and many others. Visit our website for information about our Spanish legal translation and Spanish transcription services.

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