A judge in Morristown, New Jersey, let stand a previous ruling issued in Boonton Municipal Court in a New Jersey breath test refusal case. The Superior Court judge found that the failure of police to find an American Sign Language interpreter for a Maywood woman who is deaf to help her understand the consequences of breath test refusal under New Jersey law did not violate her rights. The woman’s defense argued that interpreters are available in other situations and the failure to supply an ASL interpreter in the Bergen County woman’s case is a form of discrimination.

The municipal court had disagreed that the woman’s rights were violated. She entered conditional guilty pleas to DUI and test refusal offenses in municipal court and placed the issue before the judge in superior court.

The woman was originally arrested after a caller contacted police claiming that someone getting into a car outside a Boonton tavern appeared to be drunk. The court found that police had a legal basis to conduct a traffic stop and pursue the DUI investigation. In addition, the superior court judge found that the government provided sufficient evidence to show that the woman understands English.

Test refusal in New Jersey is a separate issue from a DUI charge. New Jersey law follows the “implied consent” theory when it comes to DUI investigations. Drivers are deemed to have given consent to a breath test to an officer who suspects the driver of being under the influence by getting behind the wheel of a vehicle. New Jersey penalizes breath test refusal with harsh driver’s license suspensions and fines.

In the recent challenge to the lack of an ASL interpreter, the woman’s license was suspended for 7 months and she was ordered to pay more than $1,000 in fines and costs. It is not clear if the ruling will be appealed.

Source: The Star-Ledger,”Judge: Police didn’t need sign language interpreter for deaf DUI suspect,” Ben Horowitz, June 4, 2014