Being called as a witness (due to having interpreted in a police case)
Thread poster: 11lina

11lina
United Kingdom
English to Lithuanian
Mar 28, 2014

Hi,

I wonder if this happened to any of you.

Last year I interpreted for the police for a very serious case and now I received a letter asking if I am available as a witness in the next 12 months.

Have any of you had to go to the court as a witness ?

Is this common practice ?

Many thanks in advance

Lina

[Subject edited by staff or moderator 2016-09-09 23:49 GMT]


 

Liviu-Lee Roth
United States
Local time: 21:32
Romanian to English
+ ...
yes, it is normal Mar 29, 2014

Last year I took the witness stand in a criminal case where I translated intercepts of text messages for the prosecution . The defense attorney tried to imply that the translation was not credible since I couldn't find in English all the exotic curses available in my language.
I translated most of them with "F... you, it, me".
On the witness stand I told the audience that there is a say in my country: " a man can curse for over 24 hours without repeating himself" ...

In your case, the defense/defence may try to find out if you interpreted such and such statement or question, if the police investigator threatened his client and so on.

He may try to convince the judge or jury that you don't speak the specific dialect his client speaks and therefore his statement given to the police should be thrown out.

There is nothing out of the ordinary to ask an interpreter to take the witness stand.

Good luck,
Lee


 

11lina
United Kingdom
English to Lithuanian
TOPIC STARTER
Not so worried Mar 29, 2014

Hi Lee,

Thank you for your reply. Not so nervous now. With better luck I may not be called yet, but it's a bit worrying when you receive such letter ...


Lina


 

Maxi Schwarz
Local time: 20:32
German to English
+ ...
a related question Mar 29, 2014

I remember being offered translation work with the warning that there was a possibility that I would be expected to appear in court for this case if I translated it. I think I didn't take on the work. But this leads me to the question of compensation. If you have to appear as a witness, those are hours that you cannot work so it is loss of income. In addition there will be at least travel expenses. Do translators and interpreters arrange some kind of compensation package? I mean, you could do a $50 translation and then lose $300 in income, and $25 for travel alone. Not to mention the stress of having to appear in court, etc.

 

Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 19:32
English to Spanish
+ ...
Related question Mar 29, 2014

You charge for your time as an expert witness at your usual rates.

 

The Misha
Local time: 21:32
Russian to English
+ ...
Unless it's the prosecution that subpoenas you Mar 29, 2014

Henry Hinds wrote:

You charge for your time as an expert witness at your usual rates.


Then you just have to show up as the good citizen that you are and eat up all your losses. Or else.

[Edited at 2014-03-29 17:27 GMT]


 

Luis Arri Cibils  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:32
Member (2003)
English to Spanish
+ ...
I agree with Henry Hinds Mar 29, 2014

Henry Hinds wrote:

You charge for your time as an expert witness at your usual rates.


Normally, translation of transcripts of intercepted phone calls or secretly taken videotapes are ordered by the prosecution, and if the translator is called to testify, it will usually be as a witness for the prosecution. However, when a translator is called to testify, it will be as an expert witness (who must be compensated), not as a fact witness whose testimony can be compelled if he or she is within the court’s subpoena jurisdiction.
A few years ago, I was called to testify in a situation similar to that of the OP in front of a federal court in D.C. in an international drug trafficking case. Although my testimony lasted less than an hour, I had to be in D.C. for nearly 4 to 5 days waiting to be called.
The prosecution (through the translation agency that had hired me) paid me round trip plane tickets from my town to D.C. and back, all the time I had to be in D.C. (8 hours per day) at a federally set hourly rate 20 to 40% higher than my own rates, my stay at a four star hotels for all of these days, a per diem to cover my living expenses (food, local transportation, phone calls, taxi fare to and from airports, etc.) In fact, what it was a little jobbie, worth at most 100 or 200 dollars became an assignment worth a few grands.
Of course, sitting on the witnesses’ stand is no fun, when the defense attorney try to destroy your reputation, the quality of your work, etc., not even for me, an attorney.


 

Liviu-Lee Roth
United States
Local time: 21:32
Romanian to English
+ ...
absolutely same situation :-) Mar 29, 2014

Luis Arri Cibils wrote:


Normally, translation of transcripts of intercepted phone calls or secretly taken videotapes are ordered by the prosecution, and if the translator is called to testify, it will usually be as a witness for the prosecution. However, when a translator is called to testify, it will be as an expert witness (who must be compensated), not as a fact witness whose testimony can be compelled if he or she is within the court’s subpoena jurisdiction.
A few years ago, I was called to testify in a situation similar to that of the OP in front of a federal court in D.C. in an international drug trafficking case. Although my testimony lasted less than an hour, I had to be in D.C. for nearly 4 to 5 days waiting to be called.
The prosecution (through the translation agency that had hired me) paid me round trip plane tickets from my town to D.C. and back, all the time I had to be in D.C. (8 hours per day) at a federally set hourly rate 20 to 40% higher than my own rates, my stay at a four star hotels for all of these days, a per diem to cover my living expenses (food, local transportation, phone calls, taxi fare to and from airports, etc.) In fact, what it was a little jobbie, worth at most 100 or 200 dollars became an assignment worth a few grands.
Of course, sitting on the witnesses’ stand is no fun, when the defense attorney try to destroy your reputation, the quality of your work, etc., not even for me, an attorney.


Interpreters are considered expert witnesses (at least in the US).


 

LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 21:32
Russian to English
+ ...
Yes, all of it is true, Mar 30, 2014

however, they can only ask you questions related to your translation or interpreting--they cannot ask you about anything else--absolutely not--as for example what the police did, what the prosecutor did, or the defense attorney--you cannot answer questions of that sort because this is forbidden by the confidentiality agreement.

 

LEXpert  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 20:32
Member (2008)
Croatian to English
+ ...
Confidential information in court Mar 30, 2014

LilianBNekipelo wrote:

however, they can only ask you questions related to your translation or interpreting--they cannot ask you about anything else--absolutely not--as for example what the police did, what the prosecutor did, or the defense attorney--you cannot answer questions of that sort because this is forbidden by the confidentiality agreement.


I thought once you are in court, on the witness stand, you have to answer all questions that are asked of you, unless the judge instructs you not to answer (or you think you may incriminate yourself). You can't refuse to answer on the basis a confidentiality agreement, though the existence of one would probably form the basis for an objection or pre-trial stipulation between the parties and court.

I thought most confidentiality agreements excluded information which you are legally compelled to provide.


 

Maxi Schwarz
Local time: 20:32
German to English
+ ...
Thanks for the answers - my conclusions Mar 30, 2014

Thanks to the folks who answered my question. My conclusion for myself is that I would want to avoid doing work that can have this as consequence. Even if you get paid as an expert witness, it gets costlier than that. When I consider the scenario of having to wait around for 4 - 5 days in the one example, that is time when you cannot respond to your clients and complete projects that may have been planned in advance. If you lose clients because of unavailability, that is a costly prospect.

 

Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 03:32
English to Polish
+ ...
Confidentiality Mar 31, 2014

Confidentiality agreements mean you should at least inform the court that you have confidentiality obligations in place and see what the court does. The court ultimately has the power to compel the testimony bar the most extreme cases like the seal of the confessional or attorney-client privilege, but a translator might not be as lucky. Anyway, the court won't know about your obligations until you tell the judge. And then a judge wanting to hear you may be obliged to give you a formal release and perhaps ask the audience out of the room or hear you in the chambers. So it's necessary to tell the judge, and once the judge starts threatening to find you in contempt then your confidentiality privilege is obviously not working.icon_razz.gif

As for facts vs expert stuff, it depends on your jurisdiction and the kind of stuff the procesutor or defence lawyer or the court is after. Which, in some cases, may be facts (e.g. did the cops beat the suspect into confessing). Which may still see you treated as an expert witness but not always.


 

Liviu-Lee Roth
United States
Local time: 21:32
Romanian to English
+ ...
sounds right ... but not quite Mar 31, 2014

Maxi Schwarz wrote:

Thanks to the folks who answered my question. My conclusion for myself is that I would want to avoid doing work that can have this as consequence. Even if you get paid as an expert witness, it gets costlier than that. When I consider the scenario of having to wait around for 4 - 5 days in the one example, that is time when you cannot respond to your clients and complete projects that may have been planned in advance. If you lose clients because of unavailability, that is a costly prospect.


I do not know how things work in other countries, but in the US, it is a little different.

Answering to your so called "problems":

1 - if you have to wait 4-5 days (which I did), you stay at a hotel, have your laptop and phone with you and mind your own business + getting paid as an expert witness.

2 - if you have other assignments planned in advance, you let the court know and they are flexible enough to schedule your testimony when you are available.

In real life, things aren't as bad as they seem to be.


 

Goodness
United Kingdom
Local time: 02:32
English to Polish
+ ...
Interpreters are considered expert witnesses (at least in the US) Sep 10, 2014

[quote]lee roth wrote:

Luis Arri Cibils wrote:


Interpreters are considered expert witnesses (at least in the US).


Unfortunately not in the UK.icon_frown.gif


 

Eleonore Wapler  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 02:32
Member (2010)
English to French
+ ...
FYI - Mere presence in most cases Jun 11

99.99% of the time the interpreter will spend 2 hours in the witness room (sometimes more than that) and will be then sent home. It’s a standard procedure to have all Crown witnesses cited and present in the court building when they call the case, otherwise they cannot proceed with the trial.

For the last 1% - that is when you are actually called in to witness, I'm not sure!


 


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