United States v. Murguia-Rodriguez

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Procedure
  • Date Filed: 03-01-2016
  • Case #: 14-10400
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Reinhardt for the Court; Circuit Judges Tashima and Callahan; Dissent by Callahan
  • Full Text Opinion

Under the Court Interpreters Act, a party must knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily waive their right to an interpreter; mere affirmation that a party is comfortable proceeding in English does not constitute waiver of that right.

Adalberto Murguia-Rodriguez was convicted of possession with the intent to distribute marijuana. During his criminal trial, Murguia-Rodriguez utilized an interpreter. However, at his sentencing hearing, Murguia-Rodriguez told the court that he was comfortable conducting the hearing in English, but requested that the interpreter remain in the courtroom in case he had difficulties. The judge then urged Murguia-Rodriguez to let the interpreter leave stating, “[S]he has other duties.” Murguia-Rodriguez conceded. Murguia-Rodriguez was then sentenced to 55 months in custody. Murguia-Rodriguez appealed his conviction arguing that the district court violated his rights under the Court Interpreters Act by depriving him of his interpreter without proper waiver. The Ninth Circuit affirmed Murguia-Rodriguez’s conviction, vacated his sentence, and remanded for further proceedings. The panel determined that Murguia-Rodriguez did not expressly waive his right to an interpreter on the record. Instead, Murguia-Rodriguez was given a “false choice” where the effect of that choice was not explained to him. The panel did not consider the lower court’s error harmless. AFFIRMED in Part, VACATED in Part, and REMANDED.

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