RCW SummaryRCW CHAPTER 2.43 INTERPRETERS FOR NON-ENGLISH-SPEAKING PERSONS
It is herby declared to be the policy of this statute to secure the rights, constitutional or otherwise, of persons who because of a non-English-speaking cultural background, are unable to readily understand or communicate in the English language, and who consequently cannot be fully protected in legal proceedings unless qualified interpreters are available to assist them.
It is the intent of the legislature in the passage of this chapter to provide for the use and procedure for the appointment of such interpreters. Nothing in chapter 358, Laws of 1989, abridges the parties rights or obligations under other statutes or court rules or other law.
As used in this chapter:
(1) "Non-English-speaking person" means any person involved in a legal proceeding who cannot readily speak or understand the English language, but does not include hearing-impaired persons who are covered under chapter 2.42 RCW.
(2) "Qualified interpreter" means a person who is able readily to interpret or translate spoken and written English for non-English-speaking persons and to interpret or translate oral or written statements of non-English-speaking persons into spoken English.
(3) "Legal proceeding" means a proceeding in any court in this state, grand jury hearing, or hearing before an inquiry judge, or before [an] administrative board, commission, agency, or licensing body of the state or any political subdivision thereof.
(4) "Certified interpreter" means an interpreter who is certified by the Administrative Office of the Courts.
(5) "Appointing authority" means the presiding officer or similar official of any court, department, board, commission, agency, licensing authority, or legislative body of the state or of any political subdivision thereof.
(1) Whenever an interpreter is appointed to assist a non-English-speaking person in a legal proceeding, the appointing authority shall, in the absence of a written waiver by the person, appoint a certified or a qualified interpreter to assist the person throughout the proceedings.
(a) Except as otherwise provided for in (b) of this subsection, the interpreter appointed shall be a qualified interpreter.
(b) Beginning on July 1, 1990, when a non-English-speaking person is a party to a legal proceeding, or is subpoenaed or summoned by an appointing authority or is otherwise compelled by an appointing authority to appear at a legal proceeding, the appointing authority shall use the services of only those language interpreters who have been certified by the Administrative Office of the Courts, unless good cause is found and noted on the record by the appointing authority. For purposes of chapter 358, Laws of 1989, "good cause" includes but is not limited to a determination that:
(i) Given the totality of the circumstances, including the nature of the proceeding and the potential penalty or consequences involved, the services of a certified interpreter are not reasonably available to the appointing authority; or
(ii) The current list of certified interpreters maintained by the Administrative Office of the Courts does not include an interpreter certified in the language spoken by the non-English-speaking person.
(c) Except as otherwise provided in this section, when a non-English speaking person is involved in a legal proceeding, the appointing authority shall appoint a qualified interpreter.
(2) If good cause is found for using an interpreter who is not certified, or if a qualified interpreter is appointed, the appointing authority shall make a preliminary determination, on the basis of testimony or stated needs of the non-English-speaking person, that the proposed interpreter is able to interpret accurately all communications to and from such person in that particular proceeding. The appointing authority shall satisfy itself on the record that the proposed interpreter:
(a) Is capable of communicating effectively with the court or agency and the person for whom the interpreter would interpret; and
(b) Has read, understands, and will abide by the Code of Ethics for language interpreters established by court rules.
(1) Interpreters appointed according to this chapter are entitled to a reasonable fee for their services and shall be reimbursed for actual expenses which are reasonable as provided in this section.
(2) In all legal proceedings in which the non-English-speaking person is a party, or is subpoenaed or summoned by the appointing authority or is otherwise compelled by the appointing authority to appear, including criminal proceedings, grand jury proceedings, coroner's inquests, mental health commitment proceedings, and other legal proceedings initiated by agencies of government, the cost of providing the interpreter shall be borne by the governmental body initiating the legal proceedings.
(3) In other legal proceedings, the cost of providing the interpreter shall be borne by the non-English-speaking person unless such person is indigent according to adopted standards of the body. In such a case, the cost shall be an administrative cost of the governmental body under the authority of which the legal proceeding is conducted.
(4) The cost of providing the interpreter is a taxable cost of any proceeding in which costs ordinarily are taxed.
Before beginning to interpret, every interpreter appointed under this chapter shall take an oath affirming that the interpreter will make a true interpretation to the person being examined of all the proceedings in a language which the person understands, and that the interpreter will repeat the statements of the person being examined to the court or agency conducting the proceedings, in the English language, to the best of the interpreter's skill and judgment.
(1) The right to a qualified interpreter may not be waived except when:
(a) a non-English-speaking person requests a waiver; and
(b) the appointing authority determines, on the record, that the waiver has been made knowingly, voluntarily, and intelligently.
(2) Waiver of a qualified interpreter may be set aside and an interpreter appointed, in the discretion of the appointing authority, at any time during the proceedings.
(1) Subject to the availability of funds, the Administrative Office of the Courts shall establish and administer a comprehensive testing and certification program for language interpreters.
(2) The Administrative Office of the Courts shall work cooperatively with community colleges and other private or public educational institutions, and with other public or private organizations to establish a certification preparation curriculum and suitable training programs to ensure the availability of certified interpreters. Training programs shall be made readily available in both eastern and western Washington locations.
(3) The Administrative Office of the Courts shall establish and adopt standards of proficiency, written and oral, in English and the language to be interpreted.
(4) The Administrative Office of the Courts shall conduct periodic examinations to ensure the availability of certified interpreters. Periodic examinations shall be made readily available in both eastern and western Washington locations.
(5) The Administrative Office of the Courts shall compile, maintain, and disseminate a current list of interpreters certified by the Administrative Office of the Courts.
(6) The Administrative Office of the Courts may charge reasonable fees for testing, training, and certification.
All language interpreters serving in a legal proceeding, whether or not certified or qualified, shall abide by a Code of Ethics established by Supreme Court rule.
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