NJ Drunk Driving Defense News: Police Must Read Suspected DWI Offenders Instructions in Native Language

When it comes to drunken driving arrests, police agencies all across New Jersey are now required to give instruction to DWI suspects in a language they can understand. The latest change in police procedures as they apply to drunk driving offenders is a result of a July decision by the New Jersey Supreme Court.

The Court’s 4-3 ruling on July 12 states that patrolmen must now communicate to a motorist suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol in a language that he or she understands that they are required under the law to submit to a breathalyzer test to determine blood-alcohol content (BAC).

The downside from a drunk driving defense standpoint is that this new requirement will likely reduce the opportunities for appeals, according to some law enforcement professionals.

The ruling came from a case out of Plainfield, NJ, where a man was charged with driving while intoxicated following a 2007 accident. According to court records, the defendant spoke only Spanish and did not understand the patrolman’s English-language instructions stating that the motorist was required by state law to submit to a breath test. Although the man’s conviction for DWI remains intact, his conviction for breath test refusal and the associated seven-month license suspension was vacated by the Court’s ruling.

The New Jersey Attorney General’s office has reportedly recorded translated instructions into 10 separate languages including Chinese, Russian, Arabic and Portuguese. The recordings are posted on a New Jersey government website (njpdresources.org) so that police can easily can play them for suspects prior to administering a breath test.

Court: Police must translate breath test requirement, if needed, NorthJersey.com, July 22, 2010