A New Jersey appeals court refused to reinstate the driver’s license of a non-English speaking DWI suspect last week, finding, “the right to due process does not automatically carry with it a right to have government documents translated into one’s native language.” The decision by the three judge panel was issued in the case of German Marquez, who was appealing the seven-month suspension of his license for driving while intoxicated.
Following a Sept. 2007 accident in Plainfield, N.J., Marquez was arrested for suspicion of DWI. Officers at the scene read Marquez a standard 11-paragraph statement standard for those accused of being under the influence of alcohol. After hearing the statement, which includes the penalties for refusal of testing, Marquez replied, in Spanish, that he did not understand the English language instructions. His subsequent refusal to have his breath tested resulted in the automatic suspension.
Lawyers for Marquez tried to argue that the state had violated his rights by not offering the statement in his native language. The appeals court tossed out that argument, adding that reversing the original suspension would lead to others using no hablo ingles as a valid excuse. Furthermore, the court explained, both the Spanish language driver’s manual and the Spanish language driver’s license exam used by Marquez had sufficient information about driving while intoxicated and consenting to a breath exam.
A spokesman for the New Jersey Attorney General’s office was pleased by the decision, telling WCBS news, “The court recognized that there are considerable practical issues in providing a translation, given the multitude of languages spoken in New Jersey and the time pressures involved in obtaining breath evidence.”