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Name: People v. Arancibia
Case #: B240341
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 02/27/2013
Subsequent History: Review denied and ordered not published

If a recording in a foreign language is used in a trial, the English translation, not the recording, controls and is the evidence of what was said. At appellant’s trial for several counts of child molestation, the prosecution introduced the taped recordings of appellant’s interrogations. Appellant was questioned in Spanish and responded in Spanish. Before the tape was played, the jury was provided with written side-by-side, Spanish-to-English translations completed by a state-certified interpreter. The court instructed that the transcript was offered as an aid but that the actual evidence is the tape itself. The court added that it could not vouch for whoever transcribed the recording. Appellant was subsequently convicted of 12 counts of sexual abuse and sentenced to 64 years 4 months to life. Reversed. A recording in English normally constitutes the evidence of what was said and a transcript is offered only as an aid to understanding the recording. However, when the tape is in a foreign language, a transcript with the English translation controls. Any other rule presents a danger that jurors speaking the language might base a verdict on their translations–the equivalent of allowing jurors to consider evidence not presented at trial. Because the error undermines this fundamental tenet of the justice system, a showing of prejudice is not required.