New Jersey Requires Police to Give Foreign Language Translation of Rights

Last month the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that drivers who don’t speak English must be informed of the consequences of refusing to take an alcohol breath test in a language they understand. With this ruling, New Jersey becomes the first state requiring a foreign language translation of the statement – although other states require that foreign language translations be made available (via print or online). Particular to this ruling:

  • The foreign language translation does not have to be available on a short notice.
  • The foreign language translation does not have to be understood, just read.

As it is estimated that over 150 different languages are spoken in the state, the state police service has developed a website with audio and written foreign language translations of the statement.

What is interesting about this decision is whether or not it will create a precedent – not only with other states adopting similar rulings for drunk driving statements, but for other legal rights. After all, the foundation of this ruling is the right for one to understand his or her rights in a language

they can understand. Will this be limited to criminal law or also extend to civil law?

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