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The Miranda Warning in Spanish

Posted on Posted in Languages, Translations

You have the right to a correct translation of your rights! – Tiene el derecho a una traducción correcta de sus derechos

Miranda Warning

A brief history: Ernesto Miranda was arrested in Arizona in 1963, the case went to trial and the prosecution built their case entirely on his confession to the two police officers during his interrogation. However, the suspect had not been warned that anything he said could be used against him as evidence in court; consequently, anything he had said was excluded from trial. Miranda was then retried and convicted, and the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that in the future all suspects must be aware of their rights by being read the ‘Miranda Warning’.

The ‘Miranda Warning’, particular to the U.S., is read out on a daily basis; as are its counterparts such as the British ‘Police Caution’. However, there is one version of the ‘Miranda Warning’ that has been supposedly translated and is causing one very prominent issue and has recently faced scrutiny: the version that, in the U.S., is read to Spanish-speaking detainees.

In the U.S., the phrasing of the Miranda Warning is:

“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say or do can and will be held against you in a court of law. You have the right to speak to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you. Do you understand these rights as they have been read to you?” 

The American Bar Association has requested an accurate, standardized warning in Spanish available to all officers to avoid any cases involving a Spanish-speaking suspect being thrown out due to misinterpretation, mistranslation or misreading of the adaptation of the Miranda Warning. Whilst some authorities have stated the detainee could have a lawyer for ‘free’, by using ‘libre’ expressing ‘freedom’ or ‘availability’ as opposed to ‘gratis’ expressing ‘free of charge’, others have chosen to translate ‘silent’ as ‘silento’; both inaccurate, the latter even more so.

In some ways, Spanish is perhaps less straightforward than English, which is in fact a relatively practical language; for example, there is only one form of the second person (singular) in English, which is ‘you’, whilst in (Castilian) Spanish there is the option to use the second person (singular) informaltú’ or the second person (singular) formalusted’. ‘Usted’ is used to address figures of authority, elders and strangers. Some officers choose to read the Miranda Warning using the informal address whilst others choose the formal pronoun, perhaps this should be the first error to be addressed and rectified. Another matter to be considered could be which preposition should follow the word ‘derecho’ (right), whether it should be ‘de’ or ‘a’.

  • “tienes el” “tiene el” (you have) (formal vs. informal)
  • “derecho de”derecho a” (the right to)

Verbs and nouns also differ throughout the various versions:

  • “permanecer en silencio” “guardar silencio” vs. “permanecer callado” (remain silent)
  • “la corte” “un tribunal de justicia” (court)
  • uno se te será asignado” vs. “se le nombrará uno” (one will be appointed for you)

However, when it comes to such important texts, especially those used in official contexts, it is crucial to have a standard, accurate, high-quality translation, no matter what language they may be in.

We translate important documents like these every day and we appreciate how essential the consistency with all these factors is. Whether it’s a Patient Information Leaflet, upon which people’s lives depend; a legally binding contract, that determines the conditions of employment or other serious terms; or a Financial Statement which could determine the reputation and success of a business; it is critical to understand the needs of clients and respond to them with maximum proficiency, professionalism and precision.