Hot Topic!

Updated: Apr 2007

    1. Who pays for the interpreter(s)?
    2. Are they funded by the court or by the probation agency?
    3. What are some of the costs associated with the use of an interpreter?
    4. Does the interpreter receive any special training regarding legal concepts and issues?
    5. Do you have a state statute or any agency policy addressing the use of interpreters?

Arizona, Gila County
Gila County pays for interpreters for witnesses in civil cases and for witnesses or defendants in criminal, delinquency, or dependency cases. Two of our Superior Court bailiffs are hired as Spanish interpreters, and their salary is paid from the Superior Court budget. If non-employee interpreters are necessary, the Superior court budget also pays for their services. In addition to interpreting for court hearings, they assist the probation officers for pre-sentence and pre-dispositional investigations. Gila County has purchased equipment that allows an interpreter to speak quietly into a microphone during court proceedings when only the defendant needs to hear the translation, and the defendant wears a headset that allows him to hear what the interpreter is saying without the others present being disturbed by the talking. We also have a system in one of our courtrooms that would allow a hard-of-hearing defendant to wear a headset and adjust the volume as necessary to hear what is said into the courtroom microphones. That should not be necessary during pre-sentence or pre-dispositional investigations. For our employee bailiffs, we have also purchased reference books for translating legal terminology and Spanish-English dictionaries. We pay for their training and for travel when they leave the County seat. For non-employee interpreters, they charge mileage to get to and from their location on the site where court is being held (in addition to their fee for translating.) Employees attend courses sponsored by the court, or on occasion, special programs offered specifically for interpreters by universities. The statute in place for addressing the use of interpreters is the Arizona Revised Statutes Section 12-242. This covers interpreters for deaf persons in civil, criminal, or grand jury proceedings. In 1970, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals held that the confrontation clause of the Sixth Amendment applicable to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause, required that non-English speaking defendants be informed of their right to simultaneous interpretation of proceedings at the government’s expense. Courts disagree on whether the right to an interpreter exists only in criminal proceedings or whether it also extends to civil and administrative proceedings. Arizona cases have held that it is up to the trial court’s discretion whether to provide an interpreter and determine if the interpreter is competent. However, there is currently a push in Arizona to set uniform standards for interpreters and require them to pass a certification test. - Mary Hawkins

Canada, Nova Scotia
The Department of Justice pays for the use of interpreters including sign language interpreters. We tend to use agencies that specialize in this type of service. They usually charge by an hourly rate. It is unknown if interpreters have any special legal education; their job is limited to translation. It is also unknown if there is a law regulating the use of interpreters. The Courts use interpreters often. Here is a link to the Nova Scotia Court website: as well as a link to the Department website: - Al Pottier

Canada, Ontario
In Ontario, the Ministry of Corrections (the provincial government) pays for interpreters. We have an “approved” list of interpreters. Interpreters must be qualified and do have some training in legal matters. There is an hourly rate (one hour minimum). We are billed if the client does not show up. We have many PO’S who have second languages and this offsets costs. There are many social service agencies that provide language specific support, counseling, and interpreters if needed. That being said, an interpreter must be used if other avenues that are appropriate are not available. - Lori Santamaria

The court initially pays for interpreters. Once a person is under supervision, the Department of Corrections pays for them. Interpreters are not funded; the money is taken out of operating expenses. Costs associated with the use of an interpreter include travel time and actual cost of time per quarter hour with a minimum. The interpreters are certified by the court. There is a statute or agency policy that addresses the use of interpreters. - Joseph Papy ( )

The money for interpreters comes from the Probation department, which is part of the Hawaii Judiciary. Interpreters are paid $80 a day or $40 for a half day. In addition to their fees, sign language interpreters are paid mileage and parking. Generally, spoken language interpreters are paid fees only. The interpreters do not receive special training at this time. Hawaii has Supreme Court Policies for Interpreted Proceedings in the Courts of the State of Hawaii and Policies for Interpreting Services in Judicial Proceedings involving individuals who are deaf or hard-of-hearing. - Toby Bailin, 808-539-4860

The Kentucky Department of Corrections pays for the interpreters during the pre-sentence report, the interpreter must be court certified to be used for this process. The agency does have a policy regarding interpreters. The cost associated is: a minimum of two hours and travel time. - Hazel Combs,

If the court does not appoint an interpreter and asks that person to participate in the pre-sentence investigations (in which case the court pays cost), we are left to find our own interpreters. We would usually ask for assistance from a university or college language department. We would try to get pro bono, but would pay if necessary. We pay for interpreters for the deaf. For the deaf interpreters, we do pay mileage. We have a state statute for interpreters in criminal matters, but it does not specifically cover the pre-sentence investigation. That is why we must pay or secure an interpreter if the judge does not assign them to the task of interpreting for the pre-sentence investigation. - Don Francois,

The Maryland Division of Parole and Probation (DPP) pay the interpreters a flat hourly rate of approximately $25.00 - $50.00 per hour depending on the services and language needed. This rate includes any travel expenses. Costs associated with the use of an interpreter include travel expenses especially in the more remote regions of the State where availability is severely limited. The staff who were asked this question said that they did not know of any other expenses other than travel and hourly wage. Staff who were interviewed do not know the precise nature of the training received by the interpreters but it is expected that the interpreter have some knowledge of legal concepts. There is a state statute addressing the use of interpreters, but they pertain to their use during court hearings only. - Judith Sachwald, (410) 585-3525

The Trial Court pays for interpreters. The Chief Justice of the Trial Court funds interpreters. The interpreters must pass a test as to fluency. - John Cremens Jr.,

New Jersey
Our situation regarding interpreters varies around the state, largely depending on how prevalent the demand for interpreters is. Over the past decade or more, the state Supreme Court has made significant efforts, through our office, to expand and upgrade interpreter services. Much has been done, but much still remains to be done. In the larger, more urban counties where there are high concentrations of non-English speakers, the court has interpreters on staff. They provide services in the courtrooms and for our support operations, such as probation. These staff interpreters are almost exclusively Spanish speaking. In addition, we have freelance interpreters who provide services to the courts and probation. These are used in those counties where there are no staff interpreters or in instances when there is a language, which the staff interpreters do not speak. These free lancers are paid by the courts on a per diem basis. We also make use of telephone interpreting services, typically for rare languages. We also have a number of bilingual PO staff (Spanish) and they would be used to interpret as well. As a last resort, we can rely on the probationer to bring a friend or family member to interpret. That is frowned upon, but sometimes we have no other choice (such as when the PO is in the field and needs to communicate with a non-English speaking probationer). In the pre-sentence area, though, the need is usually in the office. We do have certification requirements for interpreters, and they apply primarily to staff interpreters. - William Burrell

New York, Cattaraugus County
We have had most of our experience using interpreters for the deaf. I believe the issues are the same. We provide those services through the probation department. Because our use is limited to several times a year, we have a county contract covering all departments, and each department pays for the service when needed. We do not have a policy for this in the department, and while our deaf interpreters are certified, it is unknown of any special training in legal issues. -

New York, Herkimer County
Probation and the courts usually draw on the Refugee Center for interpreters. In my county of Herkimer, there is relatively little need. Bosnians usually have a relative or friend who is bilingual. The Russian monastery has bilinguals and I have translated for Russian inmates in our jail. We, too, can draw on the neighboring county’s Refugee Center but seldom do. - Bill Sink, (315) 867-1160

New York, Nassau County
In New York State, the Office of Court Administration provides for interpreters only for court hearings. They will not allow Probation use of their interpreters or even access to the list of interpreters. We unsuccessfully tried to have a contract through a local community agency to act as a conduit for paying for interpreters. However, we could not locate enough interpreters without access to the Court list and lack the assets to develop our own network. We occasionally use the County hospital for some of the more unusual languages as they have a large multi-national staff. More recently we have been utilizing Language Line (CA.) for telephone interpreters. While we use friends and relatives of clients, we do this reluctantly as we cannot be sure that our message is being accurately transmitted. In legal situations, such as reading and signing the Conditions of Probation, we look for a neutral independent 3rd party. Nassau County has a multinational population speaking many languages such as Spanish, Hindi, Chinese, Japanese, Russian, Korean, Haitian Creole, Arabic, Polish, German, Italian et al. We have had call for all of these languages. - John Carway,

New York, Onondaga County
We (the county) have the obligation to pay for interpreters for the hearing impaired. The local agency that provides the service charges $30/hr, with a two-hour minimum. We have Spanish-speaking probation officers who handle those cases. They are paid the same as regular probation officers. So far, we have not seen a need for other language interpreters. We occasionally have other non-English speaking clients who have brought their own interpreters (lawyers or friends/relatives) but that has been rare. - Todd Duncan,

New York, Westchester County
Westchester County pays for interpreters through the Probation Department’s budget. The interpreter gets $125.00 a session regardless of the length of the session. The interpreter receives no special training by the probation department. However, frequently the department uses the same interpreters the courts use. It is unknown whether the court trains them. A state statute regarding interpreters is unknown. The Department has a policy of providing and paying for interpreters for both Pre-Sentence Investigation (PSI) and Pre-Dispositional Investigation (PDI) if the defendant/respondent cannot provide one. - Jim Hoffnagle,

North Carolina
The interpreters are arranged by the Clerk of Court. Probation has very little contact with interpreters. Some of the court bailiffs are interpreters and it varies from county to county in North Carolina. They are paid by the court. I am unaware of any specialized training for interpreters, or if there are any statutes that apply to their services. - Jennifer Miller

The general fund budget for each department that has requested the interpreter is to be charged. Juror would be charged to the Court Operations. Defendant and/or Witness would be charged to Judicial. Normally the state pays for the interpreter when the defendant is indigent. If the defendant has retained an attorney, then the state only pays for services in Court. There are no special funds. They come out of the Court’s operating budget. We currently use vocal link for interpreters along with Community Services for the deaf and AT&T Language Lines in California. Interpreters charge Family Services (deaf) $39 per hour + travel. A $25 fee is charged if the interpreter shows up and the client does not. Vocalink (language) charges $65 per hour + travel. A $25 fee for not appearing is also charged in this instance. The Language Line (language) charges a $50 monthly fee + $2.20 to $2.60 per minute – depending on language. This is done over the phone. Normally, we request that interpreters have some experience in court setting before being used here. There is no specialized training for this currently. There is a statute, ORC 3211.14, that governs interpreters in the State of Ohio and the Court has an internal policy. - Jim Dare, (937) 225-4264

Texas, Harris County
We have a number of bilingual staff that does our Pre-Sentence Investigations with folks who do not speak English. Generally, the offenders are Spanish speaking, but we do have a number of Vietnamese offenders also. We pay for interpreters. During actual court hearings, the offender’s attorney provides an interpreter or the courts have access to one. - Nancy Platt,

This is an old age problem. In the Adult system, they pretty much scramble about his. Sometimes they use court interpreters, who have to be certified and make $30 per hour, so we argue about who pays. There is a judicial rule about these interpreters. In the juvenile and adult court system, we pay bilingual employees a monthly stipend fee to do this extra work of interpreting. It is about $30 per month and we have about 50 statewide. Seems to be working pretty well. There is a lack of people who speak native languages, and languages such as Laotian, Vietnamese, etc. - Ray Wahl,

Wisconsin, Milwaukee County
Milwaukee County pays for interpreters relevant to needs for Pre-Sentence Investigation completion. They are funded by Milwaukee County, not the probation agency. The interpreters here in Milwaukee, normally charge by the hour for their expertise…also included would be expenses related to travel, document reproduction, and phone expenses. I am unaware if interpreters receive special formalized training through the county regarding legal concepts and issues. - David J. Moon,

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