A post by Pat

The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled drunken drivers who can’t speak English have to be informed about a breathalyzer test in a language they can understand otherwise their rights are being violated.

Three years ago, German Marquez rear-ended a car. He was arrested for drunk driving and for refusing to take a breathalyzer test. Police are required to read a warning to suspected DWI drivers about the consequences of refusing the test. The police did read the 11-paragraph warning to Mr. Marquez in English, but he doesn’t understand English. Not fair says the NJ Supreme Court

NJ Supreme Court says non-English speaking DWI suspects must know rights

“In essence, reading the standard statement to motorists in a language they do not speak is akin to not reading the statement at all,”wrote Chief Justice Stuart Rabner in the court’s 4-3 ruling.

According to Census Bureau statistics 25% of NJ residents speak a language other than English at home. There are over 150 languages spoken by residents of the state. Heck, some would say even English is unintelligible when spoken by New Jerseyans. (I’m from NJ, trust me, I know.) Do the police have to go through all 150 languages just in case? They are dealing with a drunk after all who might not register comprehension even if they hit the right one.

I always thought ignorance of the law was no excuse. This is some more bleeding heart grandstanding. It is stupid in every language and another good reason why English should be established as the official language of the country.

p.s. Marquez is currently serving a prison sentence for an unrelated drug conviction.

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20 Comments | Leave a comment
  1. RuBegonia says:

    WOOFAW – tried to translate the onomatopoeia; light bulb over dogbrain! Must’ve been your N.J. accent Pat!

  2. morecowbell says:

    This is so dumb I do not even know how to comment. Lawyers….??

  3. Chuck says:

    An eleven-paragraph warning? Lawyers …

  4. paboki says:

    GRRRRRRRRRR! I want to scream. You know I can not get a drivers license in the country I am legally a resident of because I don’t fully understand the language well enough yet to pass the test. I can’t even get any insurance until I pass the language immersion certification. I understand why, and it makes sense. You should NOT have a drivers license if you can not speak the native tongue.

    • makeshifty says:

      Good point! Only thing is there is such a thing as an international driver’s license. I got one 11 years ago when I made a trip to Europe. I rented a car in the UK with this license (which I obtained here in the U.S.). There are differences between English in the UK and English in the U.S., so sometimes it can seem like a foreign language! However, I could’ve rented a car in France or anywhere else this license is recognized, and where the language was much more foreign to me. It would’ve been just as legal for me to drive on their roads. The thing was, the international license was valid for a shorter period of time than a normal license would’ve been (I imagine), so while that’s a route that you could probably take, it would be more of a burden to keep current.

  5. Laura says:

    Spanish speaking only should be illegal. Speak English or get out. You know what really pisses me off when you have to take a foreign language in order to get a degree! American citizens should not be forced to have to take a foreign language as a prerequisite in order to get a degree, nor be bilingual in order to get a job, these foreign morons should be forced to learn English not this other way around PC crap, I can’t stand the Spanish language anyway it irritates me, si, si, iiiie, iiiie whatever shut up already!

    • makeshifty says:

      Huh. I’ve found foreign languages interesting. I think the foreign language requirement in schools is more of a nod to the European sense of education. There it’s common for educated people to know several foreign languages, but then it’s pretty much a necessity for them. The EU is a smaller area of land mass than the U.S, so different languages and cultures are much more like neighbors. Their multilingualism is just a given and they can’t understand how we can make it only knowing English, or just one foreign language. Personally I wish Americans were more interested in what’s going on outside our own borders, but I think we have a strong sense of pragmatism that I find admirable. If we found it necessary to be multilingual to get along we would’ve done it already.

      • Chuck says:

        I agree with makeshifty. English is the language of commerce and science. Most universities have replaced the foreign language graduation requirement by computer languages. The foreign language requirement is there to round up education and culture. (It used to be that French or German were the most popular foreign language electives in College.) Sadly, nowadays, a B.A. or B.S. degree does not compare in depth or content to what was required of students in years past. Besides, the quality of teaching and the quality of the students has gone down considerably as well.

        English should be the official language of the US, period. I’m not sure why this is not the case. Louisiana used to have both French and English as official languages. However, banning or making other languages illegal should never happen, as it is something that it is unenforceable and discriminatory to say the least. (Just ask any Spaniard about Francisco Franco’s language politics.) Do we want a language police in this country? I don’t think so.

        • Laura says:

          I could care less about someone else’s culture and language

          • Chuck says:

            Not everybody thinks like you Laura, especially teachers and people in academia. And those are the ones who write curriculum standards for degrees, whether you personally like it or not. And besides, you always have the option of not taking a course and getting an F, or take your case to the Dean of students. No one is making you like a subject or not. That’s your choice as a free American citizen. (I’m willing to bet the Dean of students could care less about your opinion though.)

          • Carol says:

            I seem to think like Laura; and Chuck is right about who makes the rules. I took two Spanish classes in college. The first one I passed, then the next level got an “I” and never completed it. The only interest I have in other cultures is their food, but then I’ve been told I’m probably not experiencing the “real” versions of Italian, Chinese, Mexican, etc. Oh well, I like to eat… dessert too!, usually to take home for later 🙂

          • Chuck says:

            Me too Carol. I personally don’t have much interest in art or philosophy, or let alone social sciences. But I had to take those courses in college for a science major! Thankfully, I was waived of the foreign language and English requirements because I passed AP English and AP Spanish. There’s no use in going against degree requirements — been there, done that. Looking back, though, I’m thankful I took social sciences with a communist professor (yes, communist, not liberal — actually, his son died in a confrontation with police, sad story). I had to read a wide variety of authors, from the classical liberals like John Locke, Adam Smith (a good thing), to Karl Marx and Engels. The class was very interesting, nevertheless, especially when students tried to argue with the professor! I say that because of him, I can spot a commie in two seconds. It’s good to know these things. Like for example, cursing in different languages (which I’ve been known to do very well …) :-).

          • Laura says:

            Good as I never cared for those elitist people in academia, if they thought like me we wouldn’t be having this discussion
            Actually you cannot get an F unless you signed up for the course to begin with and then simply not finish it, and do not withdraw from the class or simply request an Incomplete. Just because you do not sign up for a course does not mean you get an F in it. I wouldn’t stand in the same room with a communist I would be afraid of what I would do to them. Again I could care less about someone else’s culture and language. And I don’t care what the Dean of students opinions are of what I think.

    • thierry says:

      it used to be anyone who had a classical education knew ,besides english, french, latin and if involved in the science particularly chemistry german (the germans were so advanced in chemistry often major papers were only available in that language.). educated people have always not just been expected to know more than one language- they desired to do so. most of our founding fathers, children of the enlightenment, probably knew french- if they were educated they knew latin.

      i wish they still insisted on latin because it opens the door to so many european languages. knowing it helps immeasurably with learning other tongues and with understanding english which has been a massive sponge soaking up numerous other languages. today americans can barely speak and write english let alone knowing any other language save LOL cat or brutalized textspeak- that’s the sad and pathetic part. our schools are a mess primarily from kowtowing to spanish speaking aliens who refuse to assimilate. . because the politicized education system has refused to make english it’s priority in teaching american children, we get a system that makes rulings like this for adults.

      the french would never allow their language to be treated so because we are not ashamed of our culture and are rather insane about the purity of our language- the government supports an academy dedicated to it alone. americans have got to stop giving into shame and guilt over their country by actively, vocally defending it and protecting their children from being intellectually crippled by education system. and removing morons that would put judges that make these decisions on the bench. things are this way because through inattention we have allowed it.

      knowing spanish doesn’t instantly make you a stupid annoying liberal- divorced from all this pc crap it is a beautiful language with a vast lovely body of literature. but we’re not talking of literature or academia- we’re talking about every day life. we are an english speaking country made up of people from many different cultures- if you do not comprehend enough english to attend to the responsibility of driving safely, you should not be given a license or excused from the consequences of breaking the law on a mere technicality.

  6. Maynard says:

    This makes no sense. Drunk people often don’t speak any language at all. Presumably it would follow that if a driver is suspected of being drunk, but is incoherent to the degree that he apparently cannot understand his situation, then there is no legal way to administer a test.

    Pat mentioned ignorance of the law not being an excuse, but it would seem the situation is more overt than that. Here in California, if I recall correctly, you have to learn certain facts in order to pass a driver’s test. Among these facts are the legal tests and limits for alcohol. In other words, you’re only driving legally if you know this stuff. You cannot beg off because you don’t understand what’s required of you. I’d be surprised if they don’t have something like that in the New Jersey licensing process.

    Lawyers often live in ivory towers. This has disastrous consequences when they make rules for the rest of us who live in the real world.

    • Pat_S says:

      Exactly, Maynard. Covering the rules about breathalyzer tests in the material one needs to know to get a license should be sufficient. Of course many of the drivers who don’t know any English haven’t actually taken a test to obtain their license, but the assumption could certainly be made by the police.

      Speaking of assumptions by the police, another problem is how do the police know which language to use without racial profiling?

      This is all about liberals feeling good about themselves. Besides, it wasn’t one of the judge’s cars rear-ended.

  7. makeshifty says:

    It seems like the rules need to be changed, not about language, but about procedure in these situations. If the person refuses a breathalizer test and they appear to not understand English, it seems reasonable to me that the police could temporarily detain the person at the police station until a translator can be brought in to give the warning to them in a language they can understand. If they still refuse, then the consequences apply. I know this would be overhead for the police, but it’s also overhead for the person detained. If they complained I’d say, “Well, learn English.” This is how I hope I’d be treated in a foreign country, though I’d be careful about doing anything that could be against the law in the first place.

  8. aliencats says:

    This is getting so out of control. How is a cop supposed to do their job?

  9. thierry says:

    at the traffic stop scream this at them: borracho!

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