Life hack sites like to claim that requesting a bilingual trial will cause minor cases to be dismissed. I have seen this on multiple sites, but it seems they have a tendency to shut down after a year or two. I can't find an active site right now, but here's a webarchive link of an older site:

https://web.archive.org/web/20140527144941/http://unethicalhacks.com/page/78/

Here is the same claim I dug up on social media, albeit also from a dead site (though I confirmed the site existed at one point and isn't made up)

If I request a bilingual trial in an extinct language like Thracian or some rare tribal language, it would be impossible for the court to oblige -- I imagine they're able to decline my request. I suspect that under the same principle they may be able to decline even if the requested language is something common like Spanish assuming the person is a native English speaker.

Is this "life hack" fake, or is there actually some substance to it?

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    If you downvote, explain why. This is not a duplicate or already answered on Snopes, I linked/quoted a direct source, and have seen this expressed by multiple life hack sites (see first sentence) instead of one-off. AFAIK this abides by Skeptics SE rules/guidelines. – Drew Oct 23 at 18:08
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    can you link to where you found this? A notable source claiming that you can pull this off is necessary for this site. Don't just say it's been "expressed by multiple life hack sites" in the comments. Please link us to one of these sites in particular. We need to know if it's an actual site claiming it or if it's an image hosting site where someone posted an image claiming it. – DenisS Oct 23 at 18:16
  • Include your link to the notable source claiming this and I'll upvote it (I'm not the downvoter, but I believe the issues I outlined were the cause of the downvote). Right now this is not up to the standards of our site. – DenisS Oct 23 at 18:18
  • @DenisS Improved sources, but it seems these sites have a tendency to shut down after a few years, so it's hard for me to find a live one. – Drew Oct 23 at 18:44
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    At the bottom of the web.archive.org link "Alert! This is satire. If you don't get it then go away. Not cool." – DenisS Oct 23 at 18:48
up vote 14 down vote accepted

According to Justice Department guidelines federal and state courts that receive federal financial assistance only have to "take reasonable steps" to accommodate lingual needs:

The Supreme Court has affirmed that the Title VI prohibition against national origin discrimination includes discrimination against [limited English proficient] individuals on the basis of language. This means that courts that receive federal assistance must take reasonable steps to ensure that limited English ability does not get in the way of a person’s ability to appear and communicate effectively in court.

(p. 3)

That being said, whether or not a case gets dismissed due to claimed lingual needs would be entirely dependent on the jurisdiction, making this question nearly impossible to give a definite answer to. One jurisdiction might see someone claiming they need Mandarin Chinese assistance for a parking ticket and decide it is not worth the effort to pursue, while another may not.

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    And a third jurisdiction may quickly establish that the defendant cannot understand Mandarin and will threaten them with contempt-of-court. – Mark Oct 24 at 0:47
  • @Mark: Indeed, there's a risk that they may call your bluff. – Nate Eldredge Oct 24 at 0:49
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    @Mark I also imagine the other party would be able to file some kind of objection. – shadowtalker Oct 24 at 1:25
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    Since the advice is often written in English it implies the defendant speaks English. If the defendant has shown competence in English then, even if they do speak another language, this law doesn't apply because they can defend themselves adequately in English. To ask for a bilingual trial you would have to have known to credibly present yourself as being unable to understand English or struggle with understanding it up until the trail date, which seems unlikely. – dsollen Oct 24 at 19:12
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    @dsollen There are degrees of competence. My wife and I converse basically entirely in English. if she were on trial, though, I would be certain that she would miss a lot of important things, doing it without a translator would be a very bad idea. – Loren Pechtel Oct 27 at 13:08

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