Am I Entitled to an English Language Court Interpreter in South Carolina?

Nihar Patel | The Carolina Law Group
Nihar Patel | The Carolina Law Group

If you are going to be involved in a criminal case in South Carolina and you’re not fluent in English, you may wonder if you can have an interpreter help you in court. In general, yes. There are, however, some caveats. Here is what you need to know about court-appointed spoken language interpreters in South Carolina.

(Note that South Carolina also provides for sign language interpreters for deaf individuals, which is covered in the SC Code here.)

Who can get a court interpreter?

According to South Carolina code, any witness, victim, or other party in a criminal proceeding is able to get a court-appointed interpreter, as long as they do not speak or understand English well enough to testify and/or comprehend the court proceedings.

The use of an interpreter, however, may be waived by the court if it is not necessary to obtain justice.

What does the interpreter do?

Court interpreters who are appointed by the court provide interpreting services during court proceedings. They are distinct from table interpreters, who are contracted by an attorney, and who provide interpretation services during attorney-client meetings or hearings. One person may not serve as both the court interpreter and table interpreter in the same case.

How do I get an interpreter for a criminal case I’m involved in?

Tell your attorney, the Clerk of the Court, or the Solicitor that you are requesting a spoken language interpreter. The court is responsible for appointing a certified or qualified interpreter. The Division of Court Administration maintains a list of certified and qualified interpreters, but someone who is not on the list is not barred from acting as a court interpreter.

Can anyone act as the interpreter?

No. South Carolina code specifies that the interpreter must be qualified or certified. A “qualified interpreter” is someone who is over 18, is not related to any party or witness in the case, is not confined to an institution, and who speaks English and a foreign language fluently and is able to interpret simultaneously and consecutively and translate documents.

A “certified interpreter” is someone who meets all the qualifications of a qualified interpreter and who is also certified by a state or federal administrative office or a nationally recognized professional organization.

Am I responsible for paying the interpreter?

Typically, no. The South Carolina Judicial Department pays the court interpreter and you are not usually expected to pay.

Get Help from Bilingual Professionals at The Carolina Law Group

If you’re involved in a criminal matter in South Carolina, you want an experienced attorney by your side. The defense attorneys at The Carolina Law Group have experience handling matters from traffic violations to violent crimes and are ready to help you at each stage of your case all the way through going to trial, if necessary. We are also proud to have many Spanish speaking people at The Carolina Law Group who can make the process easier every step of the way for our Spanish-speaking clients. Schedule your free, no-obligation consultation with us by calling one of the numbers below.

The Carolina Law Group has four offices in upstate South Carolina for your convenience: Greenville (principal office; call 864.312.4444), West Greenville (864.312.4444), Greer (principal office; call 864.757.5555), and Spartanburg (principal office; call 864.757.5555). Call today.


Mr. Patel worked for the Greenville County Public Defender’s Office in 2005 after graduating from law school. While there, Mr. Patel handled thousands of cases ranging from low-level misdemeanors to high-profile murders. In March 2011, Mr. Patel and Mr. Desai formed The Carolina Law Group. Mr. Patel practices in the areas of criminal defense, family law, and personal injury. In 2011, Mr. Patel was elected as the President of the Greenville Criminal Defense Lawyers Association (GACDL).

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