July 27, 2018

Innovative Miranda tools being tested by New Orleans police in effort to broaden access to justice

CHICAGO, July 30, 2018 — Two groundbreaking language tools developed by the American Bar Association and several partners are now helping the New Orleans Police Department convey Miranda rights in Spanish.

The initiative, spearheaded by the ABA Center for Innovation, the ABA Commission on Hispanic Legal Rights and Responsibilities and the ABA Criminal Justice Section, is intended to provide better access to justice. The tools will be rolled out and demonstrated Saturday at a program at the ABA Annual Meeting in Chicago.

The Miranda Warnings Project: You Have the Right to Innovate

Saturday, Aug. 4, 2-4 p.m.

Hyatt Regency Chicago-Ballroom Level (East Tower) Columbus Hall I/J, Chicago

In 1966, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Miranda v. Arizona that police must inform criminal defendants that they have a right to an attorney and the right to remain silent during questioning. Since then, law enforcement authorities have struggled to produce consistently accurate and understood translations of the familiar Miranda warning for people who are arrested and do not speak English. Because of faulty translations or an inability to effectively deliver accurate ones, arrests and convictions have been thrown out of court. In response to this problem, the ABA and its partners have created innovative tools that provide a Miranda translation using Spanish phrasing that has been approved by certified translators with plain language pictographic images and audio.

New Orleans police have been testing the tools on a limited basis, and expect to move into an expanded pilot soon. At Saturday’s program, New Orleans Police Commander Otha Sandifer will provide an update on the test and discuss plans moving forward.

“It is impossible to ensure equal justice for all without accurate translations of the Miranda warning for every criminal defendant, no matter what language he or she speaks,” ABA President Hilarie Bass said. “This project – a collaboration among the ABA, the New Orleans Police Department and the IIT Institute of Design – is an important step toward guaranteeing due process for all.”

The tools include a large laminated card with pictorial representations that incorporates a recording of the Miranda warning in Spanish, and a Spanish video. The pictorial tool operates like a greeting card with a voice message. The video, in Spanish, is shown on a screen in the police car to those who have limited English proficiency and speak Spanish. The tools are designed to be used in view of a body camera, which will allow the entire delivery of the Miranda rights in Spanish to be recorded.

Working with the ABA Center for Innovation, a team from IIT Institute of Design in Chicago and Chicago-Kent College of Law developed the tools with assistance from the other ABA groups. Students from Tulane University School of Law in New Orleans also contributed to the research.

Developers hope to expand the use of the Miranda language tools to other U.S. cities and to provide approved Miranda translations in additional languages.

The project is an outgrowth of recent ABA policies and reports in 2016 and 2017 that outlined the need for accurate and readily available Miranda warnings in Spanish and other languages. An estimated 12.7 million adults in the United States have limited English-language proficiency.

Additional speakers at Saturday’s program, which will be moderated by Melba Pearson of the ABA Center for Innovation and ACLU of Florida, will be Richard Pena, chair of the ABA Commission on Hispanic Legal Rights and Responsibilities; Matthew Redle, prosecuting attorney in Sheridan County, Wyo.; Jeremy Alexis, senior lecturer at IIT Institute of Design; and Moire Corcoran, a master of design student at IIT Institute of Design and the design team leader on the project.

Media are welcome to cover this and other programs at the 2018 ABA Annual Meeting, which runs Aug. 2-7 at the Hyatt Regency Chicago and other downtown Chicago locations. Reporters may request credentials by clicking here.

ABA Legal Fact Check seeks to help the media and public find dependable answers and explanations to legal questions and issues. Go to www.abalegalfactcheck.com and follow us on Twitter @ABAFactCheck.

With more than 400,000 members, the American Bar Association is one of the largest voluntary professional membership organizations in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law. View our privacy statement online. Follow the latest ABA news at www.americanbar.org/news and on Twitter @ABANews.