In December of last year, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in an Arizona theft case involving a question about the admissibility of the defendant’s confession. Specifically, the court had to determine if the fact that the defendant, who did not speak English, validly waived her constitutional rights before agreeing to make a statement. Ultimately, the court concluded that the defendant was “adequately informed” of her Miranda rights, and affirmed her conviction.
According to the court’s opinion, detectives were investigating a claim that a person was making unauthorized withdrawals from an elderly woman’s account. Through their investigation, the detectives ended up arresting the defendant, a non-native English speaker who was originally from Thailand.
On the way to the police station, the detective spoke with the defendant to assess her fluency in English. She told him that she started to learn English in 1975, when she arrived in the United States, and that she had difficulty understanding the “hard words.” When they got to the station, the detective went over the defendant’s Miranda rights with her, a transcript of which was provided to the court. During the exchange, the defendant repeatedly explained that she did not understand what was going on, expressed an interest in not going to jail, and stated that maybe she should have an attorney present. After this initial exchange, the defendant provided a partial confession that eventually led to her conviction.