ENGLISH ONLY is the Rule in NJ DWI Cases – State v. Marquez

[7/1/09 – 8:48 pm] – In an opinion released this morning, the Appellate Division has ruled that New Jersey law authorizes that people who have been arrested for drunk driving can be informed of their obligation to submit to breath-testing in solely in English. This opinion of the Court confirms a 1976 county court decision that came to the same conclusion (State v. Nunez, 139 N.J. Super. 28 (Cty Ct. 1976)). In Marquez, the defendant was arrested for drunk driving and conveyed back to the police station for breath-testing. The defendant spoke no English and had been able to communicate with the arresting officer in Spanish. At the police station, the defendant was read the required implied consent warnings (paragraph 36) in English. At trial, the defendant testified through an interpreter that he did not understand the warning that had been read to him by the police, a fact that was conceded by the State. Defendant was convicted drunk driving, careless driving and refusal to submit to a breath-test.

The Appellate Division ruled that proof that a defendant understands the warnings in paragraph 36 is not an element of the refusal offense. Moreover, the administrative burden placed upon law enforcement to translate paragraph 36 into a wide array of foreign languages would be unreasonable, especially given the time-sensitive nature of obtaining drunk driving blood-alcohol evidence.

Download a copy of State v. Marquez.

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