Albany Common Council meeting to discuss field sobriety tests in Spanish

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Field sobriety test

Officer Kevin Millan from the City of Miami Beach police department conducts a field sobriety test at a DUI traffic checkpoint December 15, 2006 in Miami, Florida. (Joe Raedle / Getty)

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — The Public Safety Committee of the Albany Common Council is meeting at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday to discuss a proposed ordinance requiring the Albany Police Department to perform field sobriety tests in Spanish.

The meeting will be held via Zoom and livestreamed through the Albany Common Council’s Facebook. Although there is no public comment period, comments previously submitted via email or Facebook will be read for the record. The video will also be available on YouTube after the meeting ends.

The topic of discussion is Ordinance Number 12.62.20, introduced by councilmembers Jahmel Robinson, Alfredo Balarin, and Sonia Frederick to regulate police department interactions. Specifically, the ordinance creates a new article in Albany’s police code.

The ordinance’s supporters say it is unfair to potentially hold a Spanish-speaker criminally liable for failing a roadside sobriety test administered in English. The instructions for field sobriety tests have never been translated into Spanish, which represents discrimination against non-native English speakers

The three 1970’s-era tests in a field sobriety test require a subject to listen closely and follow instructions while performing simple physical movements. Two are considered “divided attention” tests.

Failing a field sobriety test can earn a conviction for a class A misdemeanor, which carries a sentence of up to a year in jail. Even fluent English speakers are known to fail when the do not follow or incorrectly interpret an officer’s instructions.

Council member Kelly Kimbrough chairs the committee.

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