This is a case involving a Hispanic criminal defendant who was stopped and taken into custody by police officers for DWI. The defendant evaded a toll booth in a “cash only” lane without paying the required toll. The defendant was brought to the police department and was shown a video in the Spanish language explaining the process of taking breath tests. Having understood the same, the defendant complied and allowed the police officers to take his breath test. However, defendant asserted that he was not offered the opportunity to perform the standard coordination test.
During the trial, the defendant argued that his constitutional rights were violated when the police officers took his breath test but did not allow him to take the standard coordination test for the reason that he, allegedly, do not understand English. Defendant filed a motion to dismiss and several other motions which include a motion to suppress the videotape of the administration of the breath test and to set aside the verdict ad dismiss the charges on the ground that defendant’s federal constitutional rights were violated. The People filed an opposition to the said motions.
The Court ruled to deny the motion of the defendant to suppress evidence specifically the videotape of the breath test. Said motion, the court said, must be instituted before the trial begins. In this instant case, the defendant knew, before the commencement of the trial, that his breath test was taken even with language barriers but he failed to file a motion to the effect of suppression of evidence. Thus, the motion was untimely made.
However, defendant asserted during the trial that the officer’s failure to give him the coordination tests violated due process and equal protection rights.
As to the first issue, the Court finds that the action of the police officers in not offering the defendant to take the standard coordination tests was due solely to the officer’s perception that the defendant does not understand English. Said action, on the part of the police officers, was not based upon ethic classification, but on the ability to understand English. Further, it was clear that the defendant never claimed that the officers had the intention of discriminating Hispanics.
During the trial, the police officer who conducted the breath test admitted that he was not able to make the standard coordination test on the defendant considering the language barrier between them. The People, on the other hand, asserted that the New York City Police Department has to fire interpreters fluent in many different languages in order to offer coordination tests to non-English speaking defendants. Additionally, the people argued that the resources needed in order to effectuate the same will be substantial.
The defendant driver further alleged that the failure of the State Police Department to explain to him, in a language that he can understand, the nature of taking the coordination test violated his right to due process. It is true that the determination by the police that a person has been driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs can result to an arrest and deprivation of liberty, the investigation of suspected intoxicated driving by the police, in the field or at the intoxicated driver testing facility is not a judicial or quasi-judicial or even and administrative proceeding.
The Court ruled that there was no violation of due process in this instant case. Accordingly, the court ruled that the proposition of violation of due process applies in this case. Thus, the court denied the defendant’s motion to suppress evidence and the set aside the verdict of guilty.
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