Delegate Mark Keam - Virginia's 35th House District

Keam Wants Native Languages Used in Miranda-Rights Warnings


Keam Wants Native Languages Used in Miranda-Rights Warnings

by BRIAN TROMPETER, Staff Writer |

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A local legislator is patroning legislation that would require police to provide oral or written Miranda warnings in the native languages of those taken into custody.

Del. Mark Keam said his bill aims not to change the substance of any criminal law, but ensure that people who don't speak English are informed of their legal rights.

If authorities do not do so in a language non-English-speakers can comprehend, "that is a factor that should be considered in court," Keam (D-35th) told the Sun Gazette.

If a police officer witnesses someone committing a crime, he or she still can arrest the perpetrator even while not possessing the foreign-language Miranda rights at the moment, Keam said. Such materials may be downloaded easily from the Internet, he said.

"It's not that the cop has to have it then and there," Keam said.

Miranda rights are given after an arrest, but before questioning, Keam said.

"It's so police don't coerce confessions out of people before they have a chance to talk to their lawyers," he said. "There's plenty of time after police arrest somebody to find out that they don't speak English. From my point of view, this doesn't change the substance of any law. I hope this will encourage better police practices so people are made more aware of their rights."

Keam told the Sun Gazette that he sponsored the bill in light of police raids at the Eden Center in the Falls Church area, in which many of those arrested did not speak English.

"If police know from investigating that the suspects don't speak English, when they are about to raid that community, it only makes sense to have [Miranda rights] materials in those languages," Keam said in a phone interview Jan. 20. "It only will help [police] win their case in the long run."

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