Thursday, January 06, 2011

DUI Appeal of the Day - Drunk Driving Laws and Americans with Disabilities Act

In Bircoll v. Miami-Dade County, 480 F.3d 1072, 34 NDLR P 107, 20 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. C 371 (2007), the defendant was a deaf person, who sued after being wrongfully arrested for DUI. He claimed that the police officer's procedures for arrest and custody violated his rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act (RA). The appeals court held that:

(1) To take reasonable steps to accommodate the disability of profoundly deaf motorist who had been arrested for driving under the influence (DUI), as required under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), arresting officer had to take appropriate steps to ensure that his communication with motorist was as effective as with other individuals arrested for DUI. Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, § 202, 42 U.S.C.A. § 12132.
(2) waiting for oral interpreter before taking field sobriety tests was not reasonable modification of police procedures, in which officer who stopped motorist on suspicion of driving under the influence (DUI) had to engage to accommodate motorist's profound deafness;
(3) Actual communication between police officer and deaf motorist whom he had stopped on suspicion of driving under the influence (DUI) was not so ineffective that oral interpreter was necessary to guarantee that motorist was on equal footing with DUI suspects who were not hearing-impaired, and to protect motorist's rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), where motorist admitted that he read lips and usually understood 50% of what was said, where officer, in addition to verbal instructions, gave physical demonstrations, and where motorist understood that he was being asked to perform field sobriety tests and actually tried to perform at least three of those tests; and
(4) Arresting officer took steps reasonably necessary to establish effective communication at police station with the profoundly deaf motorist whom he arrested for driving under the influence (DUI), and did not discriminate against motorist in violation of provision of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), where officer not only read consent form aloud to motorist twice in lighted room to afford him an opportunity to lip read, but provide him with written copy of form, and where motorist acknowledged that he could read English; motorist's own failure to read what officer provided him did not constitute discrimination.
(5) Even assuming that corrections officers failed to accommodate motorist's disability, by requiring him to use ordinary telephone to attempt to communicate his arrest to his girlfriend, this lack of accommodation did not injure motorist or support cause of action under the ADA.

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