Tuesday, July 13, 2010

another reason not to learn english

New Jersey's Supreme Court has ruled that police must inform drunken driving suspects in their native language that they are legally required to take a breathalyzer test.

“If the man doesn't understand English, how does he read traffic signs, all of which are in English? How do you read the sign held by the road construction worker, "stop" or "slow"? If they can't read "Exit Ramp – Do Not Enter" couldn't innocent people die?”

Court rules breathalyzer test laws must be explained in suspect's native language

July 12, 2:11 PM • Bruce Maiman - Populist Examiner

New Jersey Supreme Court Chief Justice Stuart Rabner speaks as Justices Virginia Long, left, and Jaynee LaVecchia, right, listen in a 2008 photo. (AP)

How far should American society should go to accommodate people who don't know English?

New Jersey's Supreme Court has ruled that police must inform drunken driving suspects in their native language that they are legally required to take a breathalyzer test.

Three years ago, German Marquez was involved in a two-car accident. New Jersey police, who suspected him of DUI, read him a statement explaining that he had to consent to take a breath test and that failure to comply could lead to suspension of your driver’s license and a fine of up to two grand.

Marquez didn't consent. That's because he doesn't speak English. He only speaks Spanish. So Marquez was convicted on two charges: Driving while intoxicated, and; refusing to take a breath test when asked by police to do so.

Marquez' lawyer, Michael Blacker, didn't challenge the DUI conviction, but appealed the conviction on refusing to take the breath test. Blacker argued that the explanation about the law on testing should have been given in Spanish, as the accused does not understand English.

Blacker not only wanted the court to overturn the conviction but wanted the court to mandate translations of the breath test statement --which state law requires to be read before it's administered. The attorney says that if the statement is translated, it'll "level the playing field equal to English speakers."

The court agreed. In its 4-3 decision, the court overturned the conviction because the officer failed to inform the motorist, in Spanish, that he would lose his license if he refused the test.

Until today's ruling, no state had required translation of the statement for non-English speakers. In most states, drivers give implied consent to a breath test as a condition to the privilege of being allowed to drive on the road. It's known as the implied consent law. And in most states, police are required to make a reasonable effort to inform drivers of the consequences of refusing to take the test.

Marquez claimed he didn't know about that law.

Makes you wonder then, why we even have a state-issued drivers' manual to explain the rules of the road, a manual states make readily available in various translations so that non-English speakers can study for the driver's exam in their native language. Still, in support of attorney Michael Blacker's case, the ACLU filed an amicus brief arguing that non-English speakers are unfairly treated because they are "held to a higher standard of remembering their prior study of the driver's manual" than are English speakers.

Really? You mean after reading the driver's manual in your own language, you're going to plead that ignorance of the law is now a valid excuse?

One would hope one remembers not to go through a red light. You'd think one would remember they're not supposed to drive under the influence. Do they leave that out of the driver's manual when it's translated into another language?

If the man doesn't understand English, how does he read traffic signs, all of which are in English? How do you read the sign held by the road construction worker, "stop" or "slow"? If they can't read "Exit Ramp – Do Not Enter" couldn't innocent people die? The ACLU doesn't answer that question.

Lower courts ruled against Marquez though they did recommend that New Jersey make translations of the consent statement available in Spanish and other languages, which the state did. An official website provides recordings of the breath test statement in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Japanese, Korean, Polish, Russian, Portuguese, and Spanish. The problem here: Police can access the site and play the statement in the suspect’s preferred language, though using the site remains at the discretion of the police and, according to the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General, "is not intended to create any substantive rights for DUI arrestees."

The implications nationwide are obvious. The ruling sets a precedent that can be applied in other states, forcing states to spend tax dollars to accommodate non-English speaking drivers, or it might also affect how vigorously police apply the implied consent law at a DUI stop or even how they arrest people for DUI in the first place.

FYI: Police spoke in Spanish when asking Marquez to produce a license, but they didn't speak Spanish in reading the DUI statement.

FYI 2: Marquez isn't driving in New Jersey at the moment: He's "been in prison since last July on unrelated drug offenses."

Should drivers be given a license if they're not literate in English?

FYI: Non-English speaking foreign tourists are a separate category. They can drive legally with a license from their home country, and an International Driving Permit which will translate the information from, for example, a French Permis de Conduire into English, for the benefit of an American highway patrolman. The reason for making them an exception is that their presence is temporary and they tend to be from first world countries, some of which have higher standards of driver's education than the U-S. Resident aliens, legal and illegal, are in the country 365 days a year, and potentially could be driving all day, every day

2 comments:

Evil_Klown said...

More inane, insane, and completely ridiculous/absurd "rulings" from our intellectual superiors, the libs.

Expect MUCH more of this on the Federal Supreme Court when the libs get one more seat. All the rulings now are 5/4 with the libs ALWAYS voting against common sense.

ragweed said...

that would be because the libs have no common sense

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