California Evidence Code Section 750, 751, 753 - Interpretation

Evidence Code section 750 provides: "A person who serves as an interpreter or translator in any action is subject to all the rules of law relating to witnesses." Evidence Code section 751 provides, in pertinent part, that an interpreter or translator shall take an oath that he or she will make a true interpretation or translation. Evidence Code section 753 provides in pertinent part: "(a) When the written characters in a writing offered in evidence are incapable of being deciphered or understood directly, a translator who can decipher the characters or understand the language shall be sworn to decipher or translate the writing." In People v. Torres (1985) 164 Cal. App. 3d 266, translated transcripts of tape recordings of conversations were admitted at trial over defense objection. There was no evidence that a certified court interpreter translated the conversations. the court found that Evidence Code sections 750 and 751 required "the administration of a precisely formulated oath to any person who is to act as an interpreter" in a criminal proceeding. ( Id. at pp. 266-267.) It also noted that Evidence Code section 753, governing translators of writings, required that the translator be sworn. The court found that the failure to call the original translator to the witness stand denied the defendant the opportunity to cross-examine the translator regarding his or her qualifications and the accuracy of the translation, in violation of his right to confront witnesses. ( Id. at p. 269.) However, it found the error harmless. ( Id. at pp. 269-270.)