Table of Contents
Part A: Language Barriers and Availability of Court-Interpreters
Court administrators face different issues associated with numerous problems in criminal justice systems. Some of these problems are global and always present in the criminal investigation, while others are unique to the existing conditions. The present paper examines various problems related to language barriers and availability of court interpreters, as these are some of the key requirements that should be fulfilled in order to guarantee the adequate protection of rights of all individuals involved in the process.
Effective communication plays a central role for successful functioning of the U.S. criminal justice system. The reason is that all involved parties should be able to present their opinions and understanding of the questions and counter-claims made by others. It is the foundation of the just criminal investigation that allows to specify the positions of all parties and to determine the truth. Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 explicitly prohibits all forms of national origin discrimination (Davis, 2016). It is a fact that any language-related discrimination is inadmissible, especially during the court proceedings.
In general, the existing problem of availability of court interpreters can be subdivided into the two following sub-problems. The former refers to the general number of interpreters that should be available for performing their services during the criminal investigation. As the U.S. population tends to become more diverse, this number should keep increasing proportionally (Myers, 2015). The latter refers to the structure of interpreters, as each interpreter specializes only in certain languages. Therefore, it is important to reach a balance between the structure of languages demanded by the court participants and the one offered by interpreters.
It seems that the latter problem is even more difficult nowadays, as it is comparatively problematic to forecast future changes in the structure of language needs, as well as adjust the supply of interpreters accordingly. However, it is possible to specify the available structure of languages needed, as well as consider the changes in immigrant flows together with the population growth among different groups (Davis, 2016). In this way, the reliable models can be built and can be extended even to the long-term perspective.
Currently, court administrators tend to focus on more urgent issues, such as identifying limited English proficient (LEP) individuals as well as providing the required language assistance services. Moreover, they try to provide the whole amount of translation services needed in a given case. For example, only oral interpretation may be insufficient for some court participants when they need to understand all aspects of the case, rather than only answering certain questions. Thus, written translation and other complementary services should be provided to ensure the provision of all the necessary information to a given individual.
Court administrators are oriented to the needs of LEP individuals, as it is evident that they have some special needs and additional requirements in this process. In particular, it is necessary not only to provide the formal translation services but also to receive the corresponding feedback from an individual (Myers, 2015). LEP individual should confirm that he/she is satisfied with translating services, and the received translation allows him/her to comprehend all of the key aspects of the case. If such confirmation is absent, or the LEP individual asks for additional assistance, the court administrator should specify the source of the problem and make everything possible to address it within the minimum possible period of time.
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It seems that the cases when LEP individuals are defendants in the court require the highest attention. Under such conditions, the potential negative consequences of misunderstanding of the provided information include the restriction of a person’s liberty or other crucial rights (Davis, 2016). Therefore, all of the prevention measures should be taken to minimize the potential risks of incorrect communication among parties. In addition, it is reasonable to reconsider the traditional schedule of court proceedings. As the modern criminal justice system is overloaded with the growing number of cases and problems, the rates of cases’ examination are typically very high. However, if the case involves one or several LEP individuals (especially as defendants), it is necessary to adjust the schedule and provide some additional time for comprehending the relevant information and providing the needed responses.
In general, addressing the needs of LEP court participants is crucial for sustainable development of the entire criminal justice system. If this objective is met, the balance of interests among the native speakers and LEP individuals may be achieved. Everyone will enjoy the same conditions and opportunities for advocating his/her position. Therefore, judges will be able to determine the truth and formulate the correct ruling that incorporates information and facts obtained from all the involved parties (Davis, 2016). The current efforts made by court administrators are successful in a sense of addressing some aspects of the problem through a higher availability of interpreters. However, future actions in this direction, including a more effective long-term planning, are needed.
To summarize, language barriers may constitute an important problem, while considering the positions of different individuals in court proceedings. In order to address these issues, court administrators ensure the proper availability of interpreters and the correspondence of their skills and specialization to the demands presented by LEP individuals. The relevant amount of services should be provided, and they may include written translation, oral interpretation, and other related services. It is necessary to evaluate the LEP person’s feedback to provide the needed adjustments, in case they are necessary. The schedule of court proceedings can also be adjusted if LEP individuals require additional time to understand all the relevant facts and information. In this case, the rights of all people may be preserved, and the well-supported and objective decision can be made.
The proper preservation of rights and interests of all parties of the criminal process requires recognition of victims’ rights. Victims should possess an access to the needed information, as well as be able to advocate their position. Different states have adopted different legislation norms in this regard. The present paper examines the current state of victims’ rights in Florida.
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The most important right guaranteed in Florida and the majority of other states is preserving victims’ dignity and demonstrating the highest respect to their views. In particular, the victims should be able to explain the impact of crime on their current lives (Cassell, Mitchell, & Edwards, 2014). It may also allow determining the degree of offender’s guilt. Moreover, all victims should possess an access to the needed information about the services available to them, the corresponding compensation for suffered harm, and other types of information provided by the state’s legal norms. In relation to compensation, the victim may receive the amount that corresponds to the lost wages and medical or funeral expenses. However, the compensation does not include the expenses that are covered with other funds, such as health insurance.
In addition to the above forms of compensation, the victim has a right to demand the adequate restitution from the offender. It is an important right, as all property losses should be compensated. If there are some property-related issues, the victim has the right to return it within the minimum possible period of time (Cassell et al., 2014). Moreover, law enforcement agencies should contribute to searching for property, identifying it, and returning it to the owner. The victim has the right to a quick trial, and it means that the determined schedule should be reasonable, and all issues should be addressed in an adequate manner. In general, victims’ rights should be enforced properly, and if any problems emerge, the law enforcement officers should make everything possible to address them.
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Florida has a well-developed legal system that extends beyond the above basic victims’ rights. The systematic representation of victims’ rights is observed in the Florida State Statute 960. It offers the extensive explanations and justifications for their fair treatment. The definition of victims of crime is presented in Article I(16) of the Florida Constitutional and Statutory Victims’ Rights (2016). In particular, the Statute specifies that the victim has the right to receive the reliable information about offender’s arrest, community work release, etc.
Moreover, the Florida Statute is also concerned with the victim’s employment status and opportunities. For this reason, the victim has the right to use the services of law enforcement officers to explain the reasons of absence from work and the inability to fulfill their professional obligations (UFPD, 2016). In this way, the employer can obtain the objective information regarding the actual situation, and the victim can avoid the unjust sanctions. If the crime under investigation relates to a sexual offence, the Florida Statute declares the victim’s right to request the HIV testing of the offender (“Florida Victims’ Rights Laws,” n.d.). It is necessary for comprehending the level of corresponding health threats, and the Florida legal norm addresses these health concerns of the victim.
The Florida Statute also examines the cases related to minors. In particular, it is stated explicitly that if the victim and offender are from the same school, the victim or his/her representatives have the right to request a different school for the offender. It can allow both preventing the future acts of aggression and establishing the proper punishment for minor offenders. In general, the Florida Statute extends the general victims’ rights, as well as elaborates on their applications to some specific cases (“Florida Victims’ Rights Laws,” n.d.). It provides the complex approach to the victims’ rights and addresses their social and health interests.
In general, the existing level of victims’ rights protection in Florida is satisfactory. These regulations also impact criminal law proceedings through systematizing and organizing it according to the interests and needs of victims (Ricke, 2013). In fact, the interests and needs of other parties are also taken into consideration, but they should not have a negative impact on victims and their representatives.
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Although the existing legal norms in Florida appear to be satisfactory, the following change may be reasonable. It refers to increasing the role and application of retribution to all cases that involve property crimes. It means that the offender should be responsible both for direct and indirect damages suffered by the victim. It may include lost wages, medical expenses, etc., so that it is reasonable to cover these expenses with the offender’s funds, rather than governmental ones.
To summarize, the adequate protection of the victims’ rights is highly important for the proper organization of court proceedings. The basic rights include an access to all relevant information regarding the case, obtaining the proportional compensation and restitution, receiving the expropriated property, etc. There are also some additional guarantees and rights’ protection services offered in Florida. They include the rights to demand the obligatory HIV testing for sexual offenders, changing the school for minor offenders, etc. In general, the current level of victims’ rights protection is satisfactory, as all major elements are specified. However, the potential improvement may refer to the extending of restitution application in comparison with traditional forms of compensation. It will impose higher expenses on the offender, and they will be proportional to the amount of direct and indirect damages imposed on the victim.
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