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Guilty Pleas – Procedure – Need for, and Waiver of, Interpreter

State v. Reinier A. Ravesteijn, 2006 WI App 250
For Ravesteijn: Rudolph L. Oldeschulte


¶6        Ravesteijn, a citizen of the Netherlands, argues that the trial court was obligated to consider whether he needed an interpreter and to obtain his personal waiver of the right to an interpreter. See State v. Neave, 117 Wis. 2d 359, 375, 344 N.W.2d 181 (1984), overruled on other grounds by State v. Koch, 175 Wis. 2d 684, 499 N.W.2d 152 (1993); Wis. Stat. § 885.38 (2003-04). [1] His argument fails, however, because the circuit court’s obligation to make a factual determination is triggered only when the court is put on notice that the defendant has a language difficulty. Neave, 117 Wis. 2d at 375. The court has notice of a language difficulty “when it becomes aware that a criminal defendant’s difficulty with English may impair his or her ability to communicate with counsel, to understand testimony in English, or to make himself or herself understood in English.” State v. Yang, 201 Wis. 2d 725, 734, 549 N.W.2d 769 (Ct. App. 1996).

¶9        The circuit court did not have an obligation to inquire about whether an interpreter was needed or personally waived by Ravesteijn. There was nothing to suggest that Ravesteijn had a difficulty with English that might impair his ability to communicate with counsel, understand proceedings in English, or make himself understood in English. See id. at 734. It follows that there is no manifest injustice supporting plea withdrawal. See State v. Booth, 142 Wis. 2d 232, 235, 237, 418 N.W.2d 20 (Ct. App. 1987) (to withdraw a guilty plea after sentencing, a defendant bears the burden to show by clear and convincing evidence that a manifest injustice would result if the withdrawal were not permitted).


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