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Language matters when it comes to DUIs

On Behalf of | Jan 19, 2022 | Criminal Defense

Interacting with a police officer during a traffic stop can be stressful and scary if you could be in trouble. Everything you do and say can impact whether you leave the interaction with a warning or ticket or in the back of the police car.

With so much on the line, it is crucial to understand the importance of language in these exchanges.

Understanding your rights

Pennsylvanians have rights during traffic stops. For instance, if the police pull you over and suspect you of drunk driving, you have the right to:

  • Remain silent
  • Refuse a search
  • Refuse a breath or blood test
  • Speak with an attorney
  • Leave, unless police are arresting you

Police understand these rights. When individuals do not, they can be at a significant disadvantage.

Communicating with officers

English is not everyone’s first language, and some people struggle to speak and comprehend it. Under these circumstances, individuals may have trouble expressing themselves or understanding what police are telling them, which could have serious consequences.

This became clear in a case involving a driver who had his license suspended after he refused a blood test. While drivers have the right to do this, refusal can lead to a one-year license suspension.

However, a Pennsylvania court recently ruled that the state cannot suspend a driver’s license when an “insurmountable” language barrier prevents an individual from understanding the consequences of refusing the blood test.

Interpreting directions

During a traffic stop, police officers give a lot of instructions and ask a lot of questions. Language barriers and confusion can be detrimental in these exchanges.

For instance, if someone is performing roadside sobriety tests, an officer must be clear and accurate when administering the tests. If the motorist misunderstands or misinterprets what the officer says, they could fail the tests even if they are completely sober.

Making informed decisions if you are facing criminal charges

Individuals may not know the letter of the law; some understand their rights but cannot communicate effectively with law enforcement. These language and communication barriers should not jeopardize someone’s rights and freedom.

If you are facing DUI charges, you can call 814-806-2518 and talk to an attorney at the Quinn Law Firm to better understand your legal options.

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