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Translation Error Suppresses Evidence in Narcotics Case

Written on 31 July, 2018

A picture of Lady Justice, who often needs to be supported by a professional translation agency

As a professional translation agency that has amassed years of experience in translation over the years, the team at Surrey Translation Bureau know more than anyone the subtle nuances that surround professional translation, and how the smallest errors can have catastrophic effects in tone and meaning. In fact, this is why we firmly advise that translation apps be left for casual use only, and that any important translation is undertaken by professional (human!) translators. Unfortunately, a highway trooper in Kansas, USA, had different ideas recently.

 

What should have been a standard open-and-shut case in America has seen vital evidence suppressed this month, after it was alleged that said evidence was obtained unlawfully after an officer used Google Translate to gain consent to search the suspect’s vehicle.
 
The officer had pulled over a Spanish-speaking man, and, after realising the language barrier, attempted to use the app to aid in communication and to request permission to search the car. The officer in question attempted to translate “can I search the car?” but video evidence of the scene shows that the app translated the sentence too literally, resulting in the officer asking the suspect “can I find the car?”, along with other unintelligible sentences.
 
Professional interpreters testified that the service provided by Google Translate can be used to translate things literally, but should not be used for conversation, leading the judge overseeing the case to rule that “the court does not believe it is reasonable to rely on the service to obtain consent”. He also granted the suspect’s request for the evidence to be suppressed.
 
This is yet another case that underlines the fact that translation apps are best left to casual use, and should not be relied upon when it comes to important professional situations – these are best left to the experts, who can translate things accurately, and account for a number of things that computer programming cannot, meaning that messages will be passed along clearly, and not lost in translation.

 

If you’re in need of translation services and cannot afford to see mistakes like those above happen, then you’ll want to enlist the support of a professional translation agency like Surrey Translation Bureau. All of our staff are highly skilled and experienced in delivering expedient, accurate results. Read more about our many services today, or contact us to discuss what you need our assistance with in more detail.