N.J. police may have to learn 150 languages as a result of state Supreme Court ruling | State | NewJerseyNewsroom.com -- Your State. Your News.

newjerseynewsroom.com

Wednesday
Apr 23rd
  • Login
  • Create an account
    Registration
    *
    *
    *
    *
    *
    REGISTER_REQUIRED
  • Search
  • Local Business Deals

N.J. police may have to learn 150 languages as a result of state Supreme Court ruling

policesiren2_optConviction overturned because Spanish speaking suspect didn't understand officer

The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled Monday that police in must explain the state's implied-consent law to motorists in a language that they understand.

In a 4-3 decision, the court overturned German Marquez' conviction for refusal to take an alcohol breath test because the man, who spoke only Spanish, did not understand the consequences.

The ruling compels police officers to use a language that suspects understand when informing them the law requires a breath test. The decision could have a wide effect in New Jersey, which has 1.75 million immigrants, about a quarter of whom do not speak English fluently or at all, according to Census statistics.

The ruling came from a 2007 DWI case in which Marquez, from El Salvador, claimed that he refused to take a breath test because he did not understand the arresting officer's instruction that the test is legally required. Marquez speaks only Spanish.

NJ.com reports that the majority decision, written by Chief Justice Stuart Rabner, directed the state Motor Vehicle Commission and Attorney General's office to develop methods to inform non-English speakers about the breath-test requirement. That information is now relayed to suspects in English through an 11-paragraph statement that is read by a police officer.

Marquez was arrested in 2007 for rear-ending another car in Plainfield. Initially the officer asked in English for Marquez to show his license. When the officer repeated the request in Spanish, Marquez complied.

According to a report at Philly.com, after Marquez was read a statement in English explaining the consequences of refusing the breath test, he shook his head and pointed to his eye, which the officer considered uncooperative. As a result, he was charged with driving while intoxicated and refusing to take a breath test. Until Monday he had lost appeals in lower courts.

Marquez said that he had not understood what police were reading to him and that he had taken his driver's license exam in Spanish. He later testified through an interpreter that he had taken two Percocet tablets for pain associated with an eye injury, and that the painkiller made him sleepy and dizzy.

The Attorney General's office strongly disagreed with the ruling.

"There are over 150 different languages spoken in New Jersey...," said spokesman Peter Aseltine. "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."

He said New Jersey won't appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, since the case involves state law. Marquez's conviction on the driving while intoxicated charge was upheld.

— BOB HOLT, NEWJERSEYNEWSROOM.COM

 
Comments (10)
10 Tuesday, 15 November 2011 15:01
anonamouse
Why don't police use a translation application, such as the one available for the iphone or android. Almost everyone in America these days has a smartphone,why not put that to use? better yet if they cant afford a smartphone, i'm sure it wouldn't cost too much to mount this and other police handy applications on a small tablet device device such as the ipod touch.
9 Saturday, 17 July 2010 20:15
Sandy Beach54
What happen to you had to learn,speak,read and write ENGLISH before you could become a CITIZEN let alone an FN Drivers License,They all play I know understand English Excuse me where go to live anywhere else they don't comply to our language we have to comply to theirs,so where do these meat heads get off not having to learn OUR LANGUAGE WHICH IS
"E N G L I S H"
8 Saturday, 17 July 2010 11:27
Don Miller
I can't comment on police wages in NJ, but here in NC they are not paid "astronomical" salaries! But you all have missed the main point here: no one should be issued a licence to drive anywhere in the US if that person cannot read and understand English! i have lived in many foreign countries (Dept of State) and in every country I have had to take the licence exam in their national languages...no exceptions! Only this country, in our usual suicidal PC obsession, allows people on the road who cannot read our signs or communicate with our law enforcement officers. This is insanity! We do not allow blind Americans, or children, or people with certain types of handicap to drive, how can we possibly justify allowing people who cannot read and understand the language on the road?
7 Thursday, 15 July 2010 17:07
Ed S
The entire incident is unfortunate but could have been easily prevented. Translations into almost any language are readily available to anyone with the slightest bit of initiative. A deserved conviction should have enough weight for any PD to invest in a few printed copies of statements in the common languages according to neighborhood population. Failing that, get access to internet and have it done… simple.
6 Thursday, 15 July 2010 12:34
Kay
Lay off the caps lock, you xenophobic, racist asshole. I dont think cops in teh US should learn other languages since people should know the laws here(its available online in other languages after all), but getting racisit is ridiculous.

-A freakin asian whose English is better than YOURS.
5 Wednesday, 14 July 2010 20:17
Absurdity
An interesting problem and one that will become more relevant as more and more people migrate around the globe. However, I bet if you get pulled over in Turkey they aren't going to be so forgiving. So at what point does the routine become ridiculous? I agree that the person operating the vehicle needs to understand an officers instructions when being pulled over but wouldn't that ask the question as to why we are giving driving tests in Spanish? And if they took the written part in Spanish did they also take the in-car test with a Spanish speaking officer or how did where they able to instruct the driver? But to make things easy why not just put what the officers reads onto the cruisers laptop and let the subject choose there language, print, read and sign saying that they understand what is being requested of them.
4 Wednesday, 14 July 2010 09:15
karenrz
....if the current immigrant population learned English - just like prior immigrant groups. And knowing English should be a requirement to become an US citizen.

AND if the person pulled over or arrested doesn't have legal status to be in the U.S., they need to be deported. IMMEDIATELY.
3 Wednesday, 14 July 2010 07:23
Cliff Moore
Its not that difficult: officers need only use a few phrases in some languages, such as Spanish. Years ago in New Brunswick, it would have been Hungarian, but so what? Police officers can carry phrase books if necessary, but we pay these officers extraordinarily well. Why shouldn't they be required to learn a few simple phrases in some foreign language? My son, a USMC corporal, has been sent to 3-day language schools as part of his deployment, learning simple Arabic and French on each occassion. Military personnel aren't paid anywhere near the level of NJ police officers.

And yes, legally, you cannot be said to have issued a warning to a suspect if he or she cannot understand it. What if the shoe was on the other foot: what if a
n American citizen on vacation was stopped for drunk driving in Brazil and arrested because he failed to understand simple Portuguese? Every right wing blog in America would demand we declare war on Brazil.
2 Wednesday, 14 July 2010 00:20
sheila carter
ARE YOU GUYS FOR REAL? ARE WE NOT IN THE U.S.? DOES OUR CONSTITUTION NOT MEAN ANYTHING HERE OR WHAT? WHAT ABOUT CHECKING THE GUYS LEGAL STATUS....WHAT ABOUT THAT? YOU GUYS ARE THIS COUNTRIES ONLY HOPE AND IF WE TURN OUR LANGUAGE OVER TO THE DAMN ILLEGALS AND HISPANICS AND THE FREAKIN ASIANS AND WHO EVER ELSE SHOULD BE SPEAKING ENGLISH.... THEN WE'RE DOOMED. HOW MUCH MONEY IS GONNA COST TO TEACH ALL THESE COPS TO SPEAK ALL THE LANGUAGES... ARE YOU SERIOUS? YOU JUST SLAPPED EVERY AMERICAN FIGHTING TO SAVE THIS COUNTRY UPSIDE THEIR HEAD...THANKS! WHO LET YOU GUYS BE JUDGES? OH MY GOD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! THIS IS AMERICA, WE SPEAK ENGLISH, IF YOU DON'T KNOW ENGLISH TOUGH SHITE, YOU SHOULD'VE THOUGHT ABOUT THAT BEFORE YOU BROKE THE LAW! WHAT KIND OF PEOPLE ARE YOU. WE CAN'T AFFORD ANYMORE ANTI-AMERICANS!!!!!!!!!!!!!
1 Tuesday, 13 July 2010 22:36
Kim Hosburgh
That is such BULL SHIT!!! Again, if they live here they need to speak English. If they can't, that is their problem. They should have thought of that before they came here.

Add your comment

Your name:
Subject:
Comment:

Follow/join us

Twitter: njnewsroom Linked In Group: 2483509