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General Laws

Section 92A. In any proceeding in any court in which a deaf or hearing-impaired person is a party or a witness, or proceeding involves a juvenile whose parent, or parents, is deaf or hearing-impaired, or in any proceeding before an executive or legislative board, commission, agency, bureau committee or other body of the state or political subdivisions involving a hearing-impaired person, such court or body shall appoint a qualified interpreter to interpret the proceedings, unless such deaf or hearing-impaired person knowingly, voluntarily, and intelligently waives, in writing the appointment of such interpreter. Such waiver is subject to the written approval of counsel where such deaf or hearing-impaired person is being represented by counsel. In no event shall the failure of the deaf or hearing-impaired person to request an interpreter be deemed a waiver of such appointment.

Whenever a deaf or hearing-impaired person is arrested for an alleged violation of a criminal law, including a local ordinance, the arresting officer shall procure and arrange payment for a qualified interpreter to assist such person regarding any interrogation, warning, notification of rights, or taking of a statement. No answer, statement, or admission, written or oral, made by a deaf or hearing-impaired person in response to any question by a law enforcement officer or any prosecutor, in his official capacity, in any criminal proceeding may be used against such deaf or hearing-impaired person unless such statement was made or elicited through a qualified interpreter and was made knowingly, voluntarily and intelligently or, in the case of waiver of interpreter, unless the court makes a special finding that any statement made by such deaf or hearing-impaired person was made knowingly, voluntarily and intelligently. In any criminal proceeding wherein counsel has been appointed to represent an indigent defendant, the court shall also appoint a qualified interpreter for such defendant, whenever such defendant is deaf or hearing-impaired to assist in communication with counsel in all phases of the preparation and presentation of the case.

In all proceedings involving an interpreter under this section, no testimony shall be admitted as evidence until: (1) the interpreter is so situated as to assure effective communication between all persons having a substantial interest in the outcome of such proceedings,

(2) the interpreter swears under oath, that he will provide a true and accurate interpretation of the proceedings to the best of his skill and judgment, and

(3) the person conducting such proceedings determines, on the basis of testimony of the interpreter and the deaf or hearing-impaired person, that such interpreter is able in that particular proceeding, to communicate accurately with and translate information to and from such deaf or hearing-impaired person involved.

If, at any time during the proceeding, it is determined that the interpreter is no longer able to provide effective communication between the parties, the person conducting such proceeding shall appoint another qualified interpreter or an intermediary interpreter in accordance with the provisions of this section.

For the purposes of this section, the following words shall have the following meanings:—

“Intermediary interpreter”, a person who, because of an intimate acquaintance with deaf or hearing-impaired persons who use mainly natural or unusual gestures for communicating, can act as a mediator between the hearing-impaired person and the qualified interpreter.

“Qualified interpreter”, a person skilled in sign language or oral interpretation and transliteration, has the ability to communicate accurately with a deaf or hearing-impaired person and is able to translate information to and from such hearing-impaired person, an interpreter shall be deemed qualified or intermediary as determined by the Office of Deafness, based upon the recommendations of the Massachusetts Registry of the Deaf, the Massachusetts State Association of the Deaf and other appropriate agencies. Said office of deafness shall coordinate all requests for qualified interpreters and shall maintain a list of all such interpreters from which it shall fill such requests.

An interpreter appointed pursuant to this section or section sixty-nine of chapter two hundred and thirty-four A, shall be reimbursed a reasonable fee by the commonwealth for his services, pursuant to a fee schedule established and promulgated by the chief administrative judge. Said schedule shall be based upon recommendations of the commission for the deaf and hard of hearing, established pursuant to the provisions of section one hundred and ninety-two of chapter six, the Massachusetts Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf, the Massachusetts State Association of the Deaf, and other appropriate agencies. Reimbursement for actual travel and ordinary living expenses shall be at the rates provided for employees of the commonwealth.

A client has a privilege to prevent a certified sign language interpreter from disclosing a confidential communication between one or more persons where the communication was facilitated by said interpreter. For purposes of this paragraph a client is a person rendered interpreting services by an interpreter; a communication is confidential if a client has a reasonable expectation or intent that it not be disclosed to persons other than those to whom such disclosure is made.

Nothing in this section shall be construed to prevent any department, board, commission, agency or licensing authority from employing a qualified interpreter, who is recommended by the office of deafness, on a full-time basis or under contract at a mutually agreed upon compensation rate.

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