What do you think? N.J. top court rules police must explain DWI test laws in native language

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You can read the entire article here, but I’m going to post bits that are pertinent, in my opinion, and then the debate afterward.

…Police in New Jersey must explain the state’s implied consent law to motorists in a language that they understand, the state Supreme Court ruled on Monday. In a 4-3 decision, the court overturned a conviction for refusing to take an alcohol breath test because the man, who spoke only Spanish, did not understand the consequences…

…”He was read his rights in a meaningless way,” said Marquez’s attorney, Michael B. Blacker, who believes the ruling by the New Jersey court is among the first to require that police give informed consent in a foreign language…

…”There are over 150 different languages spoken in New Jersey, according to statistics gathered by the courts,” Aseltine (Peter Aseltine, a spokesman for the Attorney General’s office). “This ruling effectively provides an immunity claim in a prosecution for violating the refusal statute for any drunk driver who speaks a language that the officer is unable to identify or translate.”

…Prosecutors argued that all drivers give implied consent to take breath tests when they get their license, and that even though Marquez took his license in Spanish, he was informed of the consent laws at that time. Blackman argued that despite that, English drivers are again informed of the consequences of refusing the test, and therefore, other language speakers are also afforded that right…

We know he broke the law for driving while intoxicated. He didn’t understand that if he refused the test his license would be suspended for seven months, because he doesn’t speak English. The court decided that because it wasn’t made clear in his ‘native’ language, he’s not liable. Technically he ‘should have known’ the law because it’s part of the law when you get your license (please don’t test me on everything I read in the driver’s manual).

On one hand, he didn’t understand what they were saying, and it would be unfortunate if he were to be punished because he doesn’t speak English. As the attorney said, the rights read to him were meaningless.

On the other hand, it sets the precedence that if you claim to not speak a language, you can claim ignorance, and get away with a crime. I think it’s silly for every police officer to have to be able to communicate every guideline in what can be ANY language the person needs. “I only speak Innuit, officer.” This is entirely impractical, especially on-the-fly. Is an officer out in the field, while handing a crime scene, supposed to call for a Tagalog interpreter? I think not.

What do you think?

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One comment on “What do you think? N.J. top court rules police must explain DWI test laws in native language

  1. Kim says:

    That’s bullshit and that’s why the US needs a national language – or multiple national languages. What’s next, if you don’t speak English you can break any law you want because you “didn’t know”? PS That’s why I hate traveling someplace where I don’t speak at least some of the local language – in case there’s a problem it’s important to be able to communicate with the people around you.

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