OPD wants DUI case of Chinese motorist dismissed

Assistant public defender Heather M. Zona is asking the Superior Court to dismiss a traffic case of a Chinese national who was made to perform field sobriety tests and then arrested without being provided a translator—despite the man being unable to speak or understand English.

Zona said that Xiao Fei Gong, who speaks little to no English, did not understand any of the documents that the police made him sign.

Zona said the police gave Gong documents to sign and told him, “You sign, no problem. You sign, you go monkey house for a few hours, then we let you go.”

By failing to provide him with a competent interpreter, the police violated his due process rights, Zona said, as he did not understand the procedures and was unable to determine how to proceed or even to express himself.

Chang was charged last Oct. 9 with driving while under the influence of alcohol, failing to signal, reckless driving, and refusal to submit to a breath test. He was driving a yellow Camaro on Beach Road when the police stopped him and then arrested him.

Zona asserted that the court should suppress all testimony of four Department of Public Safety police officers involved in this case, plus any results, records, or observations as a result of any field sobriety tests, and any results, records or observations of any breathalyzer or blood alcohol tests.

She asked the court to dismiss the case with finality due to the violations of Gong’s constitutional rights by failing to provide him with a Mandarin interpreter.

All evidence must be suppressed, Zona said, because the stop was illegal as law enforcement had no warrant to stop, detain, or seize Gong.

She said police had no reasonable suspicion that Gong was engaged in criminal activity.

In his declaration in support of the motions, Gong said he does not speak or read English fluently.

Gong said he is able to speak very limited English sentences for hotel arrangements and to purchase items.

He said that, on Oct. 9, 2018, a police car honked at him so he changed lanes. He thought the police were honking at him to get him to change lanes as the car could pass him. He put his signal on to indicate he was changing lanes. Then he pulled over to stop for the police when he saw the police lights.

The police did not ask him for his driver’s license until he got to the police office.

Gong said he was not provided a translator at the time the police contacted him, pulled him over, detained him, and arrested him.

He said no one spoke to him in Mandarin.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a veteran journalist who has covered all news beats in the CNMI. Born in Lilo-an, Cebu City in the Philippines, De la Torre graduated from the University of Santo Tomas with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. He is a recipient of many commendations and awards, including the CNMI Judiciary’s prestigious Justice Award for his over 10 years of reporting on the judiciary’s proceedings and decisions. Contact him at ferdie_delatorre@saipantribune.com

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