Local News

New DVD Spells Out DWI Rights To Hispanics

Posted February 8, 2006

— While Hispanics make up about 10 percent of Durham's population, they account for more than 40 percent of all drunken driving arrests. Like many law enforcement agencies, Durham police provide a copy of rights when it comes to taking a Breathalyzer test, and it's written in Spanish. But, many judges have found officers are not using it on a consistent basis.

"You either have to give it to all Hispanics or no Hispanics in writing," said District Court Judge James Hill.

After several cases were dismissed, Durham police decided to cover their bases by going one step further. Officers will soon use a DVD, so Hispanic drunken driving suspects can hear their rights.

"You have to wonder where that line will be drawn," said District Attorney Mike Nifong.

Nifong applauds police for the aggressive approach, but worries about the implications.

"A judge may say at some point, 'If you're going to do that for Hispanics, why not do it for all drivers?'" he said. "That's our big concern."

Nifong said the law regarding Breathalyzers does not require rights be read in any particular language. Judges say the law is just not clear.

As for Durham police, they say the Spanish-language DVD is the right thing to do, required or not. While other law enforcement agencies said they are watching to see how successful the DVD is, they have no plans on implementing the program.


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