IN THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE SIXTH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT
OF THE STATE OF
v. Appeal No. CRC 04-15 APANO
Appeal No. CRC 04-16 APANO
LE HUU LAI
Opinion filed __________________.
Appeal from a decision of the
County Judge Thomas Freeman
Aaron Slavin, Esq.
Assistant State Attorney
Frank Winstead, Esq.
Attorney for appellee
THIS MATTER is before the Court on the State’s appeal from a decision of the Pinellas County Court dismissing the charges against the defendant. After reviewing the briefs and record, this Court reverses the decision of the trial court.
The defendant was charged with two violations --- possession of an undersized spotted sea trout and possession of that fish out of season. The defendant spoke only Vietnamese. An interpreter was ordered (apparently by the trial court) for the defendant’s pre-trial hearing, but the interpreter failed to appear. The trial judge informed the State that if the interpreter again failed to appear he would dismiss the case. At the next pre-trial hearing the interpreter failed to appear, and the trial judge dismissed the charges.
The State argues that dismissal under these circumstances was improper. This Court agrees. First, there is nothing to indicate that it was the State who had the burden to locate and ensure the appearance of the interpreter. §90.606 Fla. Stat. provides that if the court finds a need for an interpreter then one shall be sworn to interpret or translate. It does not, however, obligate the State to ensure the attendance of an interpreter.1
if the State did have an obligation to obtain the interpreter, dismissal of the
charges for the failure of the interpreter to appear was not warranted. The
record shows that the trial court sua sponte dismissed the charges as a sanction
without considering other alternatives. This is similar to dismissing the
charges when a witness fails to appear. Courts have consistently disapproved of
such dismissals as too drastic a sanction. See e.g., State v. L.E., 754
So.2d 60 (
IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that the order of dismissal is reversed, and this case is remanded to the trial court for action consistent with this Order and Opinion.
AND ORDERED in Chambers at
James R. Case
Nancy Moate Ley
John A. Schaefer
cc: State Attorney
Frank Winstead, Esq.
1 This Court believes that typically an employee in the Courts Administration office arranges for interpreters usually pursuant to a request that may emanate from a variety of sources.