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Non-English Speakers Get a Break In NJ Refusal Cases

Posted on Jul 15, 2010

I had written in a previous post that when it came to getting a driver to understand that he or she is obligated to give breath samples when arrested for DWI, with no right to counsel or protection from self-incrimination, non-English speakers were out of luck.  The police had no duty to make sure that the driver understood the instruction.  Those that did not understand that they could not refuse, and refused, were charged.  This was based on a New Jersey appeals court decision in the case of State v. Marquez. Fortunately, this miscarriage of justice has been corrected.

The decision of the appellate court was appealed, and on July 12, 2010, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that a person who has been arrested for drunk driving has the right to be informed of the obligation to submit to a breath test in the language he or she speaks.  As a practical matter, the Attorney General and the Motor Vehicle Commission will be tasked with providing a means of having the warning language available in a wide variety of foreign languages spoken in New Jersey.  It only took a year, but at least justice was finally served.

The key thing to bear in mind is that if your English is not that strong, and you do not understand the often convoluted text of the standard warning police are required to read to those arrested for DWI, speak up. They are now under a duty to make sure you understand.  Tell them what your native language is and wait until they are able to provide you with either some one who can translate it for you verbally, or give you the text written in that language.  It's the law!

If you have been charged with drunk driving in southern New Jersey, please feel free to call me at 856-432-4113 or contact me through this site to schedule a free consultation. If you are looking for more information on New Jersey's drunk driving law, then download my free book, How Much Trouble Am I In? A Guide to New Jersey Drunk Driving Law.