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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:Audrey Linton was arrested on Nov. 17, 2003 on suspicion of driving while intoxicated. The state filed its complaint against her on Dec. 31, 2003. On July 22, 2004, the trial court held a hearing on a motion to suppress filed by Audrey’s then-court-appointed counsel. Linton testified at the hearing, by use of a single interpreter, that she never learned to read or write the English language and, therefore, was unable to communicate with the arresting officer. The trial court denied the motion to suppress without inquiry into Linton’s level of comprehension. The trial began on May 23, 2005. On the morning of trial, Linton urged an amended motion to suppress. In support of her motion, Linton filed a letter from her physician and school records indicating that she reads at a fourth grade level. Linton also urged the trial court to hear expert testimony so that her level of comprehension could be evaluated adequately. The trial court denied the motion. The extent of Linton’s hearing impairment was first made apparent by court-appointed interpreter Charles Trevino. On the record, Trevino stated that Linton “does not appear to know American Sign Language.” The defense attorney then questioned Linton’s ability to understand the proceedings against her and again urged the trial court to hear expert testimony regarding Linton’s level of comprehension. The court declined to do so. Just prior to the jury entering the courtroom, Trevino again expressed his concern about Linton’s limited language capacity. He clarified that he was not interpreting but was instead” transliterating” the proceedings for Linton. Trevino also stopped short of stating that transliteration would ensure adequate understanding. Linton once again raised her” linguistic incompetence.” The court reasoned, however, that any burden of ensuring adequate understanding should fall on defense counsel. The trial proceeded with a single interpreter. On the second day of trial, Linton made an oral motion for mistrial based on the competency issue. The trial court agreed to conduct an informal inquiry into the issue of competence during which it permitted two witnesses to be called outside the jury’s presence. Pastor Arthur Craig testified that he had been signing for 30 years and had known Linton for 11 or 12 years. He stated that Linton did not understand American Sign Language or straight English coding. He testified that following the first day of the proceedings, Linton mentioned to him that she was confused and was not understanding the signs that were being used. Defense counsel also elicited expert testimony from Jean Andrews, who held a doctorate. Andrews testified that Linton reads at a fourth grade level. She further stated that about 20 percent of what had been communicated to Linton in the proceedings through the appointed interpreter’s transliteration was finger spelling above Linton’s level of reading comprehension. Andrews concluded that, given her assessment of Linton and her observation of the signing in the courtroom, the delivery of literal transliteration was insufficient for effective communication with Linton. Andrews specifically stated that Linton had language skills insufficient to enable her to understand and know what was going on in the proceedings and insufficient to enable her to communicate effectively with counsel. Andrews determined that Linton would be able to comprehend the proceedings and consult with counsel if the court would provide a deaf-relay interpreter that would work alongside the hearing interpreter. Following Andrews’ testimony, the court appointed an interpreter to sit at the defense table, where she would be “allowed to break down anything to the level at which [Linton] can understand.” The court noted that “this will be done, not simultaneous to the interpreting of the interpreters, but at the time that the court takes breaks.” Ultimately, the court denied the motion for a mistrial. The case proceeded with interpreters attempting only to transliterate for Linton and an additional interpreter seated at the defense table in order to facilitate communication between counsel and Linton during trial breaks. Eventually, Audrey Linton was convicted of driving while intoxicated. HOLDING:Reversed and remanded. First, Linton contended that the trial court erred in not making proper accommodations for her hearing impairment and thus denied her the right to confront and cross-examine witnesses, pursuant to both the U.S. and Texas Constitutions. Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Art. 38.31, the court stated, governs the appointment of qualified interpreters for deaf defendants and witnesses in criminal proceedings. If a trial court is notified by a party that a defendant is deaf and will be present at an arraignment, hearing, examining trial or trial, or that a witness is deaf and will be called at a hearing, examining trial or trial, the court has a duty to appoint a qualified interpreter to interpret the proceedings in any language that the deaf person can understand, including but not limited to sign language. If a hearing-impaired defendant is unable to understand sign language, the court stated that the trial court has an obligation to fashion a remedy suitable to overcome the defendant’s disability. Linton, the court stated, is prelingually deaf. She became deaf at 16 months old, well before she could develop comprehension of the English language. She reads at a fourth-grade level and is unable to communicate by voice. Linton also does not fully understand American Sign Language. Thus, the court stated that her form of communication was somewhere between coded English and ASL. In the case at bar, the court stated that the trial court had notice of Linton’s low level of English comprehension and her inability to thoroughly understand ASL. Rather than address Linton’s inability to understand the immediate flow of information, the trial court merely appointed a second standard interpreter to assist Linton during breaks. Thus, the court found that Linton did not understand what was occurring in the courtroom. The trial court, however, was provided a viable option in order to secure Linton’s understanding of the trial proceedings, the court stated. Andrews testified that the use of a deaf-relay interpreter would provide adequate understanding. Given the complexity of Linton’s hearing impairment, the court held that the trial court erred in not providing Linton with the assistance of a deaf-relay interpreter. OPINION:Valdez, C.J.; Valdez, C.J., and Benavides and Vela, JJ.

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