Drivers in New Jersey who don’t speak English must be informed of the consequences of refusing to take an alcohol breath test in a language they understand, says a the state Supreme Court ruling reported by USA Today. No other states require translations of the statement, though some provide access to translators, and others have made some translations available by computer or in print, says Jeffrey Mandel of the New Jersey Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.
“I think other states are going to follow New Jersey’s lead,” Mandel says. “It should not logistically be an issue for police departments – every department has access to computers, with laptops in cars or at stations.” The ruling does not require translators be available on short notice or allow for a “too drunk to understand” defense. State Attorney General Paula Dow’s office maintained state law did not require the statement to be understood, just that it be read. Spokesman Peter Aseltine says the decision gives immunity to any drunken driver who speaks a language the officer is unable to identify or translate. “There are over 150 different languages spoken in New Jersey,” Aseltine says. Since April, New Jersey has provided police with a website with the statement in audio and written form in 10 languages widely spoken in the state.