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A Guide to Finding a Court Interpreter

Do you need help with English to make sure that your story is told in court?

Ask the clerk of the court for a form or help in getting an interpreter. The clerk is the person behind the counter. If the court decides that an interpreter is needed, the court will pay for the interpreter. The court will need at least 5 days notice.

Asking for an Interpreter for your court case

The court will help you to find an interpreter.

To request a spoken language interpreter, please submit a Request for Spoken Language Interpreter (Form CC-DC41) to the court in which the case will be heard. Requests for interpreter should be submitted to the court not less than thirty (30) days before the proceeding for which the interpreter is requested.

Need help to ask for an interpreter?

If you have a lawyer, ask the lawyer to arrange for an interpreter.

If the clerk does not speak your language, s/he can call a special phone number where an interpreter can assist the two of you to make the arrangements for free.

When will the court appoint an interpreter?

The court will appoint an interpreter for free if one of the following is true.

  1. You do not understand English well enough to fully participate.
  2. You do not understand English well enough to help your lawyer, if you have one.
  3. It is difficult for the judge, the lawyers or the jury (if there is one) to understand your English.

How does the court decide to appoint an interpreter?

Sometimes a clerk or someone else may have told the court that you need an interpreter, or it may be marked on your court file. In this case, no questions will be asked. However, if the court is unaware of your need for an interpreter, the court staff may ask you some questions in English. Here are some examples of questions that you may be asked.

  • “How did you get to court today?”
  • “What kind of work do you do?”
  • “Why are you in court today?”

You will be asked these questions to help the court decide if you need an interpreter.  This is not the beginning of your testimony but you should answer truthfully.

Will the court provide a sign language interpreter?

Yes, or any other "reasonable accommodation."

Tips on Working with Your Interpreter

  • Your interpreter is not your lawyer. The interpreter will interpret everything you say, word for word, in order to help you tell your story. The interpreter can also help you to understand what others are saying.
  • If you do not understand a question or a word, say “I do not understand.”
  • The court will provide an interpreter to you without cost to you.
  • Avoid talking directly to your interpreter during court proceedings. Speak to the person asking the question.
  • If you have questions, ask your lawyer, the judge or court staff, not the interpreter.
  • If you have trouble understanding the interpreter, tell the judge through the interpreter

It is your right to understand everything.

Source: 
This is an adaptation of a brochure developed by the Maryland Legal Assistance Network under the sponsorship of the Delivery of Legal Services Council of the MD State Bar Association, in partnership with the Administrative Office of Courts' Court Interpreter Program for a special project of the Eastern Shore Regional Library under a Library Services Technology Act grant from the Division of Library Development Services/MD State Department of Education (author: Ayn H. Crawley)
Is this legal advice?

This site offers legal information, not legal advice.  We make every effort to ensure the accuracy of the information and to clearly explain your options.  However we do not provide legal advice - the application of the law to your individual circumstances. For legal advice, you should consult an attorney.  The Maryland State Law Library, a court-related agency of the Maryland Judiciary, sponsors this site.  In the absence of file-specific attribution or copyright, the Maryland State Law Library may hold the copyright to parts of this website. You are free to copy the information for your own use or for other non-commercial purposes with the following language “Source: Maryland's People’s Law Library – www.peoples-law.org. © Maryland State Law Library, 2013.”