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Understanding of prosecution process is key for crime suspects

When a person is arrested and accused of a crime, one of the first things the arresting officer should do is state the suspect's Miranda rights. It's the first step in informing the suspect of the legal process that lies ahead. It should be noted that the last line of the Miranda warning asks the suspect if he or she understands these rights. If not, it's incumbent upon the officer to do whatever is necessary to clear up any misunderstanding before the process continues.

Sometimes a language barrier can prevent this understanding, as was the case of a man who turned himself in to Connecticut police after traveling there from North Carolina. He was accused of murdering a woman in Cumberland County. The man is believed to be an undocumented immigrant and has limited knowledge of English. When he appeared in court for a hearing in Connecticut, he waived his rights to extradition. But when asked if he understood what this meant, he said no. The judge denied the process until a translator could explain his rights.

The man is accused of killing his 22-year-old girlfriend at the end of last month and kidnapping his daughter. She was eventually found safe in Virginia, where the man apparently has a relative. He's currently facing first-degree murder charges.

A Cumberland County police spokeswoman said the man said he was eager to return to North Carolina, which she said was puzzling considering allegations that he fled the state with his daughter after the woman was killed. But as an immigrant with very limited English language skills, it may be the only place he knows well in this country.

With such serious charges against him, it's especially important that this man understand the legal process. Having a translator will be crucial, but he would also benefit from the counsel of an attorney experienced in criminal defense who can help him understand the charges and penalties he'll face if convicted.

Source: North Carolina News Network, "Fayetteville Murder Suspect Detained In Connecticut," Josh Zach, Dec. 30, 2011

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