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Constitutional Law

Denied Sign Interpreter, Deaf Man Wins DUI Reversal After Serving 9-Month Sentence

Posted Dec 2, 2011 2:36 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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After a five-year appellate battle, a Washington state man has won a reversal of his drunken-driving conviction.

Because William M. Kral, 33, is deaf and was not provided with a qualified sign-language interpreter, as required by state law, his Benton County District Court conviction will be overturned, the Tri-City Herald reports.

In court to respond to the driving-under-the-influence charge, Kral allegedly asked for an interpreter, to no avail, and had to attempt to communicate with his lawyer via written notes. Kral's appeal brief states that Kral lost his hearing when he was 9 months old, and that research shows that people who lose their hearing before age 3 struggle with language and have a median of a fourth-grade reading level.

The state will return the $4,600 Kral paid in fines, but he has already served his nine-month sentence.

At a court hearing yesterday, as the win came through, Kral's lawyer, Moe Spencer of Kennewick, had to provide a qualified sign-language interpreter for his client, because the court still doesn't have one, the article notes.

Through that interpreter, Kral told the newspaper that he hadn't understood significant aspects of his case, early on, when forced to proceed without an interpreter. For example, he understood at one point that he was agreeing to a continuance, but he didn't understand that he was waiving his speedy trial rights.

As a result of his conviction, he lost his construction job and his girlfriend at that time, he told the Herald.

"This issue is not about money and not about me personally," Kral said. "It's about making sure deaf people get equal access and to try to raise that awareness."

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