Miranda Warnings for Suspects Who are Deaf

To meet the requirements of the Miranda decision, a person who is deaf or heard of hearing must understand the warning and the questions asked during an interrogation.

The admissibility of a suspectís statements will depend upon evidence that he or she understood his or her rights and understood and answered the officersí questions willingly. This principle applies to suspects who are deaf or hard of hearing just as it does to other people.

A written copy of the warning will be sufficient for a suspect whose understanding of Standard English is good but may not be sufficient for one who uses sign language and does not have a good understanding of English.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) does not require providing an interpreter for a suspect who uses oral interpreters or sign language, if the person does not request an interpreter when given he opportunity to do so and is willing to accept a written copy of the warnings. However, as a safeguard in protecting the suspectís constitutional rights, it is recommended that you provide an interpreter whenever giving Miranda warnings or interrogating a suspect whose primary language is sign language. A listing of interpreter services can be found in the Communications Book.

When using an interpreter, use one who is able to interpret effectively, accurately, and impartially what the officer is saying to the suspect and what the suspect is saying to the officer. If the deaf person is providing a statement that will be used in a court proceeding, the interpreter should always be certified by the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID). This will provide better service for the deaf person, while providing you a formalized mechanism to demonstrate the interpreterís capabilities in court. The ADA permits asking straightforward questions such as name, address, and date of birth while waiting for the interpreter to arrive.

The officer must follow the same procedures for allowing suspects to make telephone calls that they would for a hearing person. In all circumstances where suspects are allowed to make telephone calls, a video phone must be made available on request for suspects who have a hearing or speech disability.

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