DUI conviction tossed over language barrier

OLYMPIA — Washington’s Supreme Court has thrown out a man’s conviction for drunken driving, saying the state never proved that he was advised in Spanish about his right to an independent blood test.

Jose Matilde Morales caused an accident when he rolled through a stop sign in Lewis County in 2004. At a hospital, a state trooper asked an interpreter to read him his rights in Spanish, including his right to an independent blood test. But at his trial, the interpreter was never called to testify, and the state never proved that Morales actually received and understood the warning. Morales was convicted of hit-and-run, DUI and reckless driving.

He challenged his DUI and reckless driving convictions, saying the state-administered blood test should not have been allowed into evidence. The Supreme Court agreed Thursday in an 8-1 decision. Justice Charles Wiggins wrote for the majority that the right to an independent blood test is an important part of a defendant’s ability to defend himself at trial.

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