United States v. Romo-Chavez

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Evidence
  • Date Filed: 05-23-2012
  • Case #: 10-10424
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge O'Scannlain for the Court; Circuit Judge Berzon and District Judge Lasnik
  • Full Text Opinion

The Confrontation Clause of the Sixth Amendment does not prohibit the introduction of a defendant's translated admissions to a police officer even if the translator would not qualify as a court interpreter.

Claudio Romo-Chavez attempted to enter the United States from Mexico in May 2009. Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”) officers discovered a secret compartment in the gas tank of Romo-Chavez’s vehicle, which concealed nearly six kilograms of methamphetamine. With the assistance of a CBP officer acting as a translator, an agent of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) questioned Romo-Chavez about the methamphetamine. Romo-Chavez was subsequently convicted of possession with intent to distribute and importation. On appeal, Romo-Chavez argued that the ICE agent’s testimony is inadmissible, because the CBP officer who translated Romo-Chavez’s statements would not qualify as a court interpreter. The United States countered that the CBP officer “served merely as a language conduit” for Romo-Chavez’s statements. Therefore, the CBP officer’s translation should be construed as Romo-Chavez’s own statements. The Ninth Circuit considered four factors, citing United States v. Garcia, to determine whether the translated statements were admissible. The Court held the district court did not err in finding that the CBP officer “served merely as a language conduit for Romo-Chavez.” The Court implicitly declined to require that individuals qualify as court interpreters for the language conduit exception to the Confrontation Clause to apply. Further, even if the language conduit exception did not apply in this case, the CBP officer’s appearance at trial satisfied the requirements of the Confrontation Clause. AFFIRMED.

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