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People v. Long

April 24, 1998

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
MELVIN K. LONG, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from Circuit Court of Woodford County No. 95TR4020 Honorable Donald D. Bernardi, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Knecht

THE COURT OF APPEALS OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS

After a stipulated bench trial in the circuit court of Woodford County, defendant Melvin K. Long was convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI) (625 ILCS 5/11-501 (West 1994)). The trial court placed defendant on 24 months' court supervision, assessed $169 in costs, and ordered him to perform 100 hours of public service work. Defendant appeals, alleging the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress. Defendant maintains the arresting police officer violated his rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) (42 U.S.C.A. §12101 et seq. (West 1995)) by failing to provide him with a sign language interpreter upon his request. We affirm.

For his conduct on September 9, 1995, defendant received a traffic citation for DUI. On November 13, 1995, defendant filed a motion to suppress evidence of the use of field- sobriety and breathalyzer tests. Defendant, who is deaf, argued the ADA requires law enforcement to provide qualified interpreters for individuals who are deaf. Defendant maintained on several occasions he requested the provision of a qualified interpreter so he could understand the officer's instructions, but the interpreter was not provided for him. Defendant contended because he was denied an interpreter, a violation of his constitutional rights occurred when the officer obtained the field tests and the breathalyzer results.

Neither a transcript of the hearing on defendant's motion to suppress nor a bystander's report of that hearing is included in the record. The facts below, as well as the facts relied upon by the parties, are found in the common law record and the trial court's written order following the hearing.

A police officer stopped defendant on September 9, 1995, at approximately 10:30 p.m. The officer advised defendant his taillights were not working, by showing the lights on his automobile to him. The officer demonstrated to defendant how to perform field-sobriety tests. Defendant, unable to hear anything, copied the officer and performed the field-sobriety tests. Defendant and the officer communicated periodically by using written notes. The officer arrested defendant and transported him to the Woodford County jail, where a breathalyzer test, performed by defendant, evidenced an alcohol concentration of .18.

Prior to performing the breathalyzer test, defendant received the "Warning to Motorist." The applicable portions of the one-page warning informed defendant:

"Considering the above, you are warned:

1. If you refuse or fail to complete all chemical tests request and:

If you are a first offender, your driving privileges will be suspended for a minimum of 6 months; or If you are not a first offender, your driving privileges will be suspended for a minimum of 2 years.

2. If you submit to a chemical test(s) disclosing an alcohol concentration of 0.10 or more or any amount of a drug, substance or compound resulting from the unlawful use or consumption of cannabis listed in the Cannabis Control Act or a controlled substance listed in the Illinois Controlled Substances Act and:

If you are a first offender, your driving privileges will be suspended for a minimum of 3 months; or If you are not a first offender, your driving privileges will be suspended for minimum of one year." (Emphasis in original.)

Defendant indicated he did not understand the entire warning, but he did understand the consequences of refusing the test, i.e., he would receive a six-month suspension instead of a three-month suspension if he failed. Based on that information, defendant decided to take the breathalyzer test. Defendant testified he requested an interpreter four times, but the officer denied his requests.

The trial court found defendant was not provided a sign-language interpreter during his arrest. The trial court, denying defendant's motion, concluded the ADA contemplates written communication may adequately substitute for sign language, and found it did so in this case. The trial court determined defendant was able through written communication to perform the field-sobriety tests commonly given in DUI arrests. The ...


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