The Iowa Supreme Court has upheld the drunken driving conviction of an Ottumwa man who complains he didn’t know English well enough to know he could refuse to take a blood alcohol test. One afternoon in late January of 2006 Ottumwa police got a call about a man slumped over the steering wheel of a truck that was sitting in a Casey’s carwash.
A police officer found the truck parked, with its engine running and Hector Garcia inside. The office knocked on the window of the truck, but Garcia didn’t wake up. The officer opened the door and woke him up. She saw an open can of beer in a cup holder and smelled alcohol on his breath.
Garcia argues he didn’t understand English well enough to know what the cop was telling him about the blood alcohol test. The Iowa Supreme Court has ruled that while police must use "reasonable methods" to tell someone they can refuse to take drunken driving tests, it "does not mean the officer must take extraordinary…measures."
The court points out alcohol dissipates from the blood over time and waiting for an interpreter to arrive could rise losing evidence of intoxication. It also cites conversations the cop and Garcia had before the tests were taken, conversations the officer says led her to believe he understood English.