In an effort to thwart law enforcement in the state from arresting those who don’t speak English during DUI stops, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled officers must bring non-English speakers into the station and translate the breathalyzer process for them in a language they understand.
The result of the added dog-and-pony show for non-English speakers could lead to law enforcement to think twice before they attempt to arrest those on suspicion of drunk driving. At the very least it will cause officers to leave the field and drive alleged DUI offenders to the station leaving fewer enforcement officers on their beats.
According to the ruling, New Jersey police must explain the state's implied consent law to motorists in a language that they understand before making any arrests.
Monday’s State Supreme Court’s 4-3 decision overturned a conviction for a man who refused to take an alcohol breathalyzer test because he only spoke Spanish, and claims he did not understand the officers.
The case dates back to 2007 where the court said a Plainfield police officer did not inform German Marquez in Spanish that he would lose his license if he refused the DUI test.
The dispute arose after police responded to a car accident. The police officer initially asked in English for Marquez to show his license and after noncompliance the officer repeated the request in Spanish.
Marquez said he didn't understand the police and that he had taken the driver’s license test in Spanish.
One of Marquez’s excuses for the accident and officer misunderstanding was an unsubstantiated claim that he had taken two Percocet pills for pain that made him sleepy and dizzy.
"He was read his rights in a meaningless way," said Marquez's attorney, Michael B. Blacker. "Other states have not gotten this far. This is the first case where the court has said translation is the remedy."
Nevertheless, "there are over 150 different languages spoken in New Jersey, according to statistics gathered by the courts," Peter Aseltine a spokesman for the Attorney General’s office said. "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."
As a result the ruling has lead the Attorney General's Office to post standard statements via audio and written formats in nine foreign languages on a website for law enforcement officials to access.
However, prosecutors argued that all drivers give an implied consent to take breath tests when they get a driver’s license and say when Marquez took his test in Spanish he was informed of the consent laws.
The Justices dissenting opinions said that police need only make reasonable efforts to inform motorists of the consequences and it was not a requirement that a motorist understand the consent law, especially if the driver may be intoxicated.
Despite the new law, Marquez’s conviction for the driving while intoxicated charge was upheld by the court as the defendant could not prove he had a prescription for Percocet.
Law enforcement advocate groups quickly jumped to the side of the police officers.
"What is scary is how the government is deciding to ignore federal immigration law and that's solely to curry favor with Mexico City, Corporate America (for contributions), and the illegal aliens themselves (some do illegally vote/future voter under path to citizenship). The officers who enforce our laws at all levels of government know about the ‘War on Law Enforcement’ that's now gone on for three administrations going back to Clinton and Janet Reno's Department of Justice,” said Andy Ramirez, president of the California based non-profit Law Enforcement Officers Advocates Council.
“They (law enforcement officers) realize after the cases I've documented showing DOJ prosecuting agents along the border for doing their job that the next one could be any of them, especially after Gilmer Hernandez the Texas Deputy Sheriff prosecuted by Johnny Sutton who went to prison. However, if we ignore a law that affects national security, and affects public safety in our local communities, by failing to enforce immigration law, what law will we fail to enforce next?”
The picking and choosing of which laws law enforcement is supposed to follow may very well lead to a deadly outcome. “Or worse yet, when we (U.S.) will will see the next 9-11 attack as a direct consequence of these new laws. It's not if, it's when," Ramirez finished, (AdvocatesCouncil.us).
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