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Can Obesity Impact Workers’ Compensation?

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Archive: Jul 2016

Can Obesity Impact Workers’ Compensation?

The obesity epidemic continues to plague America with 37.5% of adults in the United States as obese. Unfortunately this can also cause problems with workers’ compensation. Doctors connect obesity to a variety of health problems, including diabetes, heart attacks, and high blood pressure. It also exacerbates the effects of injuries such as back and neck problems, lengthening healing time compared with non-obese employees. As obesity rates continue to climb, lawmakers show concern about how employees’ weight should affect workers’ compensation benefits.

Obesity’s Relationship with Other Injuries

Obesity complicates many workers’ compensation cases, leading to employers paying for additional surgeries and procedures that would not be necessary for an average weight employee. For example, imagine an employee sustains a back injury from a slip and fall at work. Doctors state the employee has to have back surgery, but because of her weight she must first undergo lap-band surgery. The courts may find that the employer must pay for both surgeries as part of treatment for the work-related injury.

Workers’ compensation benefits may also have to pay for extended absences if doctors recommend a weight-loss program or surgery for obesity-related complications. For instance, if an employee hurt his knee on the job, workers’ compensation benefits would have to cover the associated medical expenses. If a doctor stated the knee would never recover due to the stress of his body weight, and advised the employee to have gastric bypass surgery, the employer would end up paying for the employee’s prolonged absence from work.

If an obese employee suffered complications or an adverse reaction during a weight-loss surgery, the employer may also have to pay for additional surgeries or treatments. Doctors recognize that obesity also causes injuries. Employers are facing workers’ compensation claims that may not have existed if the employees weren’t obese, such as knee injuries. It can be difficult to prove that a workplace injury was the result of an employee’s weight instead of a dangerous workplace condition.

There is a greater risk for obese employees that workplace injuries will result in disabilities. In situations where a person of average weight could reasonably heal and return to work, obese employees may take months to heal or never fully recover. This leads to an increase in expensive disability claims and lifelong benefits. Clearly, drawing the line between what is and is not the employer’s responsibility is becoming increasingly difficult.

What are My Rights as an Employee?

In the past, workers’ compensation cases involving obese employees show employers pay more when obese employees sustain injuries. This does not mean, however, that an employer can deny an obese employee workers’ compensation benefits. The law requires employees to extend benefits within the parameters of federal and state laws, with no biases against certain employees for physical appearances.

As an injured employee, you have the same rights to file a claim with the workers’ compensation court, see a doctor and pursue medical treatment, remain home from work until you reach maximum recovery, and receive disability compensation if your injury temporarily or permanently prevents you from working. If your doctor suggests you undergo weight-loss surgery or a program as part of your recovery from a work-related injury, workers’ compensation can cover those expenses.

Work Injury in Orange County

Enlist the help of a workers’ compensation attorney in California to make the filing process smoother and easier. If you have questions regarding how obesity might affect your workers’ compensation case, an attorney can help. With dozens of workers’ compensation cases under our belt, our firm can help you understand the state and federal laws, exceptions to the rules, and your employer’s obligations by law. We know suffering a work-related injury is difficult enough without also dealing with obesity-related workers’ compensation complications. Contact us today to speak with us during a free case evaluation.

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REPOSESIÓN DE VEHÍCULOS

Artículo 16-31

¡No Se Deje! ®

Si usted pide dinero prestado para comprar un vehículo, el banco o compañía financiera requiere que usted firme un contrato de préstamo. Estos contratos son documentos muy largos que intimidan y contienen muchos términos y condiciones que están diseñados para proteger al prestamista o compañía financiera.  Una de las protecciones más importantes que la ley y los contratos proveen a los prestamistas o compañías financieras es el derecho a re-poseer y vender el vehículo si el deudor deja de hacer los pagos prometidos.  Otro derecho importante de los prestamistas es demandar al deudor por la diferencia entre el saldo del préstamo y la cantidad obtenida después que se re-venda o subaste el vehículo. Esta cantidad se conoce como saldo “deficiente”.  Por ejemplo, si la persona debe $15,000 y el carro se re-vende por $12,000 el deudor puede ser demandado por la deficiencia de $3,000.  El comprador/Deudor del vehículo también tiene algunos derechos bajo la ley de California.

 

La ley exige que los prestamistas o compañías financieras cumplan con cada una de las condiciones de la ley de reposesión o no se les permitirá demandar al deudor por la “deficiencia”.  El prestamista/Compañía Financiera puede llevarse (re-poseer) el vehículo sin informarle al deudor con anticipación.  Legalmente no pueden irrumpir en una cochera o garaje cerrado ni hacer algo que perturbe la paz o provoque violencia.  Sí pueden llevarse el vehículo de un pasillo o de una cochera totalmente abierta.  Los prestamistas que violen las leyes de reposesión son responsables de cualquier daño que causen y por la reposesión en sí.

 

Después que un vehículo ha sido re-poseído, la compañía financiera debe enviarle al deudor/propietario una carta llamada AVISO DE INTENCIÓN DE DESHACERSE DEL VEHÍCULO.  La carta debe ser enviada dentro de los 60 días de la reposesión y debe ser entregada personalmente o enviada por correo certificado con recibo firmado por el receptor.  La carta debe decir claramente que ellos intentan vender el vehículo.  También debe decir la cantidad exacta que debe pagarse para recibir el vehículo de vuelta, dónde puede recogerse el vehículo, e información necesaria sobre cómo proteger los derechos del deudor.  A los deudores se les debe informar que pueden re-establecer el contrato del préstamo si lo hacen dentro de 15 días o se les debe decir por qué razón no califican para ello.  A los deudores también se les debería decir que se les puede conceder un plazo de tiempo para re-establecer el préstamo si califican.

 

Después que se revende el vehículo, la compañía financiera tiene requerido enviar al deudor un estado de cuenta detallado que indique en cuánto se vendió el vehículo y todos los gastos relacionados con la venta.  Las compañías financieras usualmente reportan la reposesión a las agencias de reportes crediticios y después demandan a la persona por cualquier saldo deficiente adeudado.

 

Los consumidores que reciban cartas de reposesión deberían conversar inmediatamente con un abogado para conocer y proteger sus derechos.  Siempre conserve todos los documentos relacionados con vehículos en un lugar seguro pero no en el vehículo.  Y si existe el riesgo de una reposesión, saque todos los objetos personales de su vehículo o podrían perderse cuando se lo lleven.  ¡NO SE DEJE! ®  

 

JESS J. ARAUJO, ABOGADO

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REPOSSESSION OF VEHICLES

Article 16-31

¡No Se Deje!

If you borrow money to buy a vehicle, the bank or finance company requires you to sign a loan agreement. These agreements are long intimidating documents that contain many terms and conditions that are designed to protect the lender.  One of the most important protections that the law and the contract provide to lenders is the right to repossess and sell the vehicle if the borrower fails to make the promised payments.  Another important right of lenders is the right to sue the borrower for the difference between the loan balance and the amount obtained after it is resold. This amount is called a “deficiency” balance.  For example, if the borrower owes $15,000 and the car is resold for $12,000 the borrower can be sued for the $3,000 deficiency.  The vehicle buyer/borrower does have some rights under California law.

 

The law requires lenders to comply with each and every condition of the repossession laws or they will not be allowed to sue the borrower for the “deficiency”.  The lending/Finance Co. can take the vehicle without informing the borrower in advance.  They cannot legally break into a closed garage nor do anything that will create a disturbance of the peace or violence.  They can take the vehicle from an open carport or driveway.  Lenders that violate the repossession laws are liable under the law for any damage they cause and for the repossession itself.

 

After a vehicle has been repossessed, the finance company must send the owner/borrower a letter called a NOTICE OF INTENT TO DISPOSE OF VEHICLE.  The letter must be sent within 60 days of the repossession and must be delivered personally or sent by certified mail with a receipt signed by recipient.  The letter must clearly state that they intend to sell the vehicle.  It must also state the exact amount that must be paid to get the vehicle back, where the vehicle may be picked up, and information necessary to protect the borrowers’ rights.  Borrowers must be informed that they can reinstate the loan contract if done within 15 days or they must be given the reasons they do not qualify to do so.  Borrowers should also be told that they can be granted an extension of time to reinstate the loan if they qualify.

 

After the repossessed vehicle is resold, the finance company is required to send the borrower an itemized statement indicating the amount the vehicle was sold for and all expenses related to the sale.  Finance companies usually report the repossession to the credit reporting agencies and then sue the borrower for any deficiency balance owed.

 

Consumers that receive repossession letters should immediately discuss the situation with an attorney to learn about and protect their rights.  Always keep all important documents related to vehicles in a safe place and not in the vehicle.  And if repossession is likely, take all personal items out of the vehicle or they may be lost after the car is taken.  ¡NO SE DEJE! ®  

 

JESS J. ARAUJO, ESQ.

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Exceptions to Workers’ Compensation Exclusive Remedy Rule

California’s workers’ compensation remedy rule has both simplified the system by which an injured worker can receive compensation while also trapping certain injured employees and limiting their options for relief. The state’s exclusive remedy rule means that workers’ remedies for work-related injuries can be limited solely to a workers’ compensation claim against the employer. In other words, an injured employee cannot file a personal injury claim against the employer unless the case qualifies as an exception. It’s important to understand the exceptions to the remedy rule and know your options as an injured worker.

Understanding the Exclusive Remedy Rule

In many cases, California’s exclusive remedy rule helps employees. While it limits employees’ legal avenues, it also gives employees automatic benefits if they sustain a work injury. Employees don’t have to prove an employer was negligent, or that negligence directly caused the injury. If an injury occurred during a job-related activity, that’s enough for the state to require an employer to pay for the benefits.

In some situations, however, an employee would be better off if he or she could bring a claim against a negligent employer instead of settling for workers’ compensation benefits. There are many cases where an employee would receive a large settlement if he or she won his or her lawsuit. If an employee wants to file a claim outside of workers’ compensation for a work-related injury, the situation has to fall under an exception.

Third Party Negligence

According to California’s Labor Code section 3600, there are several exceptions to the exclusive remedy rule. One of the narrow exceptions to the workers’ compensation exclusive remedy rule is if a worker’s injury is the result of a third party’s negligence. A “third party” refers to an entity that is neither an employer nor a co-worker, such as the manufacturer of certain tool used on the job. Depending on the circumstances concerning the third party, workers’ compensation laws don’t prohibit filing a personal injury lawsuit.

Intentional Injuries

These cases are rare, but in the event a worker’s injuries were the result of an employer’s intentional actions to harm the worker, the worker can sue. If an employer assaults an employee and results in injury, the employee can file a personal injury claim with the court. If an employer ratifies an assault by a co-worker, the injured employee can also file a claim.

Fraudulent Concealment

If an employer fraudulently conceals an injured worker’s injuries, leading to the worker’s injuries worsening, the employee can sue the employer outside of workers’ compensation. To support a fraudulent concealment argument, a plaintiff has to prove that the employer concealed the injury and the connection between employment and the injury, and that the concealment exacerbated the injury. These situations most commonly involve hazardous substances such as asbestos or mold.

Failure to Obtain and Maintain Insurance

If your employer chooses not to secure workers’ compensation insurance, you may take the uninsured employer to court in the event of an injury. An injured employee can file a claim on the basis of negligence. An employer has a duty to abide by workplace safety codes and standards. If an uninsured employer negligently disregards these rules and it results in employee injury, the victim(s) can take legal action.

Understanding the Complexities of Workers’ Compensation

Understanding the complex nature of California’s workers’ compensation exclusive remedy rule and its exceptions requires the attention of a skilled attorney. Your employer may not be honest with you regarding your rights in the face of an injury, especially if your injury was the result of a hazardous workplace environment. Instead of taking what your employer might say for granted, consult with a workers’ compensation attorney who has your best interest in mind.

If you think the law restricts you to only filing a workers’ compensation claim, contact our team for a free evaluation. We’ll discuss the possibility of filing a personal injury claim to maximize your compensation.

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SIEMPRE LEA LOS DOCUMENTOS ANTES DE FIRMARLOS Esposa confió en su Esposo y perdió pensión de por vida

Artículo 16-30

¡No Se Deje! ®

Elpidia Braza confió completamente en su esposo, Emiliano Braza.  Cuando él la llevó al banco y le pidió que firmara un formulario frente a un Notary Public, ella rápida y gustosamente accedió.  Elpidia Braza NO LEYO EL FORMULARIO ANTES DE FIRMARLO.  Ni el Sr. Braza ni el Notary Public le explicó para qué era el formulario o cuál sería el efecto de su firma.  Elpidia Braza nunca  pidió que uno de ellos le explicara el propósito del formulario o las consecuencias de su firma.  Después que Emiliano falleció, ella descubrió la trágica verdad sobre el formulario que había firmado.

Emiliano Braza fue empleado gubernamental por mucho tiempo.  Poco tiempo antes de retirarse, registró su solicitud para los beneficios de retiro.  La solicitud le permitía decidir cómo quería recibir sus beneficios.  Una opción era recibir una cantidad reducida de dinero de por vida para que su esposa también pudiera recibir una pensión de por vida después que él falleciera.  La opción dos le proveería más dinero durante su vida pero no le brindaría beneficios a su esposa después que él falleciera.  Emiliano escogió esta opción aún cuando su esposa no recibiría nada después que él muriera.

Tras el fallecimiento de Emiliano, la Sra. Braza registró una solicitud de beneficios de cónyuge sobreviviente bajo el plan de retiro de su esposo.  La oficina de beneficios negó su solicitud indicando que el formulario que ella había firmado era un documento que probaba su Consentimiento a la decisión de su esposo de recibir una cantidad aumentada de beneficios durante su vida en tanto que eliminaba cualquier beneficio para ella después que él muriera.   De hecho, el formulario que ella firmó claramente dice que esta opción no puede ser utilizada a menos que el cónyuge renuncie a su derecho a una pensión de por vida firmando el formulario.   La Sra. Braza quedó muy desconcertada y preocupada por su futuro financiero.  Para empeorar las cosas, la acción de su esposo también le eliminó los beneficios del seguro de salud después de fallecido.

La Sra. Braza registró una apelación argumentando que el formulario no constituía legalmente una renuncia válida de su derecho a beneficios de por vida. La corte de apelaciones no estuvo de acuerdo y dijo que el formulario en sí mismo y otros documentos aclaraban que los cónyuges tienen derecho a beneficios de sobreviviente a menos que firmen el formulario de consentimiento y renuncia.  La corte dijo que el “DESCONOCIMIENTO DE SUS DERECHOS Y DE LA IMPORTANCIA DEL FORMULARIO NO ERA POR INSUFICIENCIA DEL FORMULARIO, SINO MAS BIEN DE SU ERROR ADMITIDO DE NO LEER EL FORMULARIO.”  Añadió que ningún cambio o mejoramiento en las instrucciones del formulario habría cambiado el resultado porque la Sra. Braza no lo leyó.

Infortunadamente, lo sucedido a la Sra. Braza no es inusual. Con demasiada frecuencia, las personas firman documentos sin leerlos porque alguien en quien confían les dice o se los pide. Algunas veces las personas firman documentos sin leerlos porque simplemente son muy descuidados o desidiosos.  Todos deberíamos leer todo documento antes de firmarlo, punto.  Si la Sra. Braza hubiera hecho esto, hoy podría estar disfrutando de pagos de pensión de por vida y también de seguro médico. ¡NO SE DEJE! ®

 

Jess J. Araujo, Abogado

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ALWAYS READ DOCUMENTS BEFORE SIGNING THEM Wife trusted Husband and lost lifetime pension

Article 16-30

¡No Se Deje!

Elpidia Braza trusted her husband, Emiliano Braza, completely.  When he drove her to the bank and asked her to sign a form in front of a Notary Public, she quickly and gladly complied.  Elpidia Braza DID NOT READ THE FORM BEFORE SIGNING IT.  Neither Mr. Braza nor the Notary Public explained what the form was for or what the effect of her signature would be.  Elpidia Braza never asked either of them to explain the purpose of the form or the consequences of her signature.  After Emiliano died, she discovered the tragic truth regarding the form that she had signed for him.

Emiliano Braza was a long time government employee.  Shortly before retiring, he filed his application for retirement benefits.  The application allowed him to decide how he wanted to take his benefits.  One option was to take a reduced amount of money during his lifetime so that his wife could also receive a pension for her lifetime after his death.  Option two would provide him with more money during his lifetime but would provide no benefits to his wife after his death.  Emiliano chose this option even thought his wife would get nothing after his death.

After Emiliano died, Mrs. Braza filed an application for spousal survivors’ benefits under his retirement plan.  The benefits office denied her application stating that the form that she had signed was a document that proved her Consent to her husband’s election to take an increased amount of benefits during his lifetime while eliminating any benefits to her after his death.  In fact, the form that she signed clearly states that this option cannot be used unless the spouse waives her right to a lifetime pension by signing the form.  Mrs. Braza was shocked and extremely concerned about her financial future.  To make matters worse, her husband’s action also eliminated her health insurance benefits after his death.

Mrs. Braza filed an appeal arguing that the form did not legally constitute a valid waiver of her right to the lifetime benefits.  The appeals court disagreed and said that the form itself and other documents made it clear that spouses will receive survival benefits unless they sign the waiver and consent form.  The court said that Mrs. Braza’s “UNAWARENESS OF HER RIGHTS AND OF THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE FORM WERE NOT DUE TO ANY INSUFFICIENCY OF THE FORM, BUT RATHER TO HER ADMITTED FAILURE TO READ THE FORM.”  It added that no changes or improvement in the language of the form would have changed the result because Mrs. Braza did not read it.

Unfortunately, what happened to Mrs. Braza is not uncommon.  All too often, people sign documents without reading them because someone they trust asks or tells them to.  Sometimes people sign documents without reading them because they are simply too lazy or careless.  Everyone should read every document before signing it period.  Had Mrs. Braza done this, she might be enjoying lifetime pension payments and health insurance too. ¡NO SE DEJE! ®

 

Jess J. Araujo, Esq.

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INDIVIDUAL TAX IDENTIFICATION NUMBERS: Useful Facts and Dangerous Myths for Immigrants

Article 16-29

¡No Se Deje!

In 1996 the Federal Internal Revenue Service (IRS) created INDIVIDUAL TAX IDENTIFICATION NUMBERS (ITIN) so that people that do not qualify for a Social Security number can file their tax returns.  The IRS is required by federal law to collect income taxes from everyone that receives income regardless of their immigration status, including undocumented immigrants.  Since undocumented immigrants do not qualify to participate in the Social Security system, they are not issued Social Security numbers.  The ITIN allows them comply with federal tax laws and file a tax return.

 

Unfortunately, this simple and useful procedure has often proven to be confusing and misunderstood.  Anti-immigrant activists have made incorrect statements about the purpose and effect of allowing undocumented immigrants to use them.  They have said that the ITIN allows undocumented immigrants to avoid being detected by immigration officials because the IRS does not report ITIN users to immigration authorities.  These critics also say that the 1986 Immigration Act requires all federal agencies to exchange information about immigrants and that anyone using an ITIN must be undocumented.  This is not true since some lawfully admitted temporary immigrants must also use an ITIN.

 

Critics also say that undocumented immigrants illegally use ITINs to wrongfully claim and receive income tax refunds.  This is not true.  The IRS legally provides tax refunds to people who paid too much regardless of immigration status. Undocumented immigrants have too often been the victims of cruel and costly scams and fraud involving ITINs.  Immigrant victims have been tricked into paying for ITIN cards even though the can be easily obtained without charge directly from the IRS.  They have also been told that ITINs give them the right to work, to qualify for Social Security benefits, and that it can be used as identification for drivers’ licenses.  This is not true.

 

ITINs were created for foreign investors and visitors who owe the U.S. government taxes and are ineligible for Social Security numbers.  ITINs allow immigrants to prove that they lived in this country, to open bank accounts and obtain credit cards at many banks, and to obtain loans and establish a positive credit history.  Paying taxes is considered “good moral character” by immigration officials.  If Immigration Reform legislation is passes, using an ITIN to pay income taxes now may help undocumented immigrants to satisfy one of the requirements for permanent residency.

The use of ITINs in appropriate situations can provide many useful benefits to undocumented immigrants.  Knowing what ITINs can and cannot do will allow them to avoid being defrauded by unscrupulous people that prey on innocent immigrants.  ¡NO SE DEJE! ®

 

Jess J. Araujo, Esq.  

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NUMEROS PERSONALES DE IDENTIFICACIÓN TRIBUTARIA Utilidades y Peligrosos Mitos para los Inmigrantes

Artículo 16-29

¡No Se Deje! ®

En 1996 el Internal Revenue Service-IRS (en español Servicio de Impuestos Internos) creó el  INDIVIDUAL TAX IDENTIFICATION NUMBER –ITIN (en español Número Personal de Identificación Tributaria) para que las personas que no califiquen para un número de Seguro Social puedan presentar su declaración de impuestos (income tax).  El IRS tiene por obligación cobrar y recibir los impuestos de todos los que reciben ingresos independientemente de su estatus migratorio, incluyendo a inmigrantes indocumentados.  Dado que los inmigrantes indocumentados no califican para participar en el sistema del Seguro Social, no se les dan números de Seguro Social.  El ITIN les permite cumplir con las leyes federales sobre impuestos y presentar una declaración de impuestos.

 

Infortunadamente, este procedimiento simple y útil frecuentemente ha resultado ser confuso y malentendido. Los activistas anti-inmigrantes han hecho declaraciones incorrectas sobre los propósitos y efectos de permitir que los inmigrantes indocumentados los utilicen. Han dicho que el  ITIN permite que los inmigrantes indocumentados eviten ser detectados por los oficiales de inmigración porque el IRS no reporta a los usuarios de ITIN con las autoridades de inmigración.  Estos críticos también dicen que el Decreto de Inmigración de 1986 exige que todas las agencias federales intercambien información sobre los inmigrantes y que quien use un ITIN debe ser indocumentado.  Esto no es cierto dado que algunos inmigrantes temporales legalmente admitidos también deben utilizar un ITIN.

 

Los críticos también dicen que los inmigrantes indocumentados usan el ITIN ilegalmente para  reclamar y recibir los reembolsos de impuestos al ingreso.  Esto no es cierto.  El IRS legalmente hace reembolsos solamente a las personas que pagan demasiados impuestos independientemente de su estatus migratorio. Los inmigrantes indocumentados muy frecuentemente han sido víctimas de costosos engaños y fraudes que tienen que ver con el ITIN.  Los inmigrantes víctimas han sido engañados para pagar por las tarjetas de ITIN aún cuando estos pueden ser fácilmente obtenidos directamente del IRS sin costo.  También les han dicho que el ITIN les da derecho a trabajar, a calificar para beneficios del Seguro Social, y que puede ser usado como identificación para obtener licencia de conducir.  Esto no es cierto.

 

El ITIN fue creado para inversionistas extranjeros y visitantes que deben impuestos al gobierno de EE.UU. y no son elegibles para un número de Seguro Social. El ITIN aún permite a los inmigrantes indocumentados comprobar que vivieron en este país, abrir cuentas bancarias y obtener tarjetas de crédito en muchos bancos y obtener préstamos, y establecer un historial crediticio positivo.  Pagar impuestos es considerado “buen carácter moral” por los oficiales de inmigración.  Si se aprueba una Reforma a la legislación de Inmigración, usar un ITIN para pagar impuestos sobre el ingreso puede ayudar que los inmigrantes indocumentados cumplan uno de los requisitos para la residencia permanente.

 

El uso del ITIN en situaciones apropiadas puede proveer muchos beneficios útiles a los inmigrantes indocumentados. Saber qué es lo que el ITIN puede y no puede hacer permitirá evitar ser defraudados por personas inescrupulosas que hacen presa de inocentes inmigrantes. ¡NO SE DEJE!®

 

Jess J. Araujo, Abogado

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39 LATINOS RECIBEN INFRACCION DE TRANSITO POR NO HABLAR INGLES

Artículo 16-28

¡No Se Deje! ®

Ernestina Valdez Mondragón llevaba a su hija a la escuela cuando fue detenida por un policía de Dallas, Texas.  Le dio una infracción de tránsito por hacer un giro en U prohibido, por no portar su licencia de conducir y POR NO PODER HABLAR INGLES.  La Sra. Mondragón estaba tan enfadada que la llevaron a la sala de emergencia.  La Sra. Mondragón, que sí tiene licencia de conducir de Texas, fue a la corte a pelear el cargo de no poder hablar Inglés.  El juez desechó las acusaciones.  Una investigación reveló que los policías de Dallas han impuesto 39 infracciones por no hablar inglés.  Seis oficiales de diferentes divisiones han infraccionado a conductores por no hablar Inglés.

 

Representantes del departamento de Policía al inicio minimizaron el mal proceder como un simple e inocente error de un oficial nuevo e inexperimentado.  Pero después que los 38 casos adicionales fueron publicados, se exigió una respuesta más seria.  El Jefe de Policía David Kunkle admitió que no hay ley que exija que los conductores puedan hablar Inglés.  Se disculpó y dijo que todas las infracciones serían desechadas.  También dijo que se reembolsaría a quien hubiera pagado la multa de $204.  También dijo que sabía que este incidente muy probablemente perjudicaría la relación entre el departamento de policía y la comunidad Latina.

 

El policía que le dio la infracción a la Sra. Mondragón era un oficial en entrenamiento de 33 años de edad.  Como tal, se le exige que sea acompañado en todo momento por un policía instructor, y todas las infracciones deben ser aprobadas por un Sargento supervisor.  En este caso, un oficial instructor estaba presente durante la infracción ilegal por no hablar Inglés, y el Sargento supervisor sí aprobó la infracción ilegal.  El departamento de policía no reveló los nombres de los otros policías que impusieron infracciones similares por no hablar Inglés.

 

Todavía no se sabe si algunas de las otras víctimas de esta acción ilegal se declararon culpables y hoy tienen el cargo inexistente de “no hablar Inglés” en sus registros de corte o están registrados con condenas de tránsito en sus registros de manejo.  Un juez local dijo que las autoridades de estas agencias deberían verificar para asegurarse que no se impongan penalidades incorrectas a estas víctimas.

 

George Martinez, profesor de leyes, dijo que los 39 casos parecen como una política y que “La discriminación basada sobre la habilidad en el lenguaje ó idioma que se concentra en Latinos me parece bastante serio.”  Brenda Reyes de LULAC -League of United Latin American Citizens (en español Liga de Ciudadanos Latino Americanos Unidos) dijo “El principio de la cuestión es que hay policías allá afuera que representan a nuestra ciudad quienes realmente piensan que es un crimen no hablar Inglés.”

 

El jefe de policía Kunkle dijo “un oficial tiene que saber los elementos de una ofensa o lo que es necesario para se constituya un crimen.”  Esto es lo que es tan problemático en este caso.  Los oficiales que deben conocer los elementos de las ofensas tienen que estudiar cuidadosamente cada una.  Si esto se hubiera hecho, el oficial en entrenamiento, y ciertamente el oficial instructor y el Sargento supervisor  deberían haber sabido que no existe tal ley.  Entonces ¿Por qué esta infracción ilegal tuvo que ir a corte para descubrir que no existe tal ley?.  Y, ¿Qué causó que los otros 5 oficiales emitieran las otras 38 infracciones ilegales de tránsito por “conductor que no habla Inglés”?.  ¡NO SE DEJE! ®

 

Jess J. Araujo, Abogado

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39 LATINOS GOT TRAFFIC TICKETS FOR NOT SPEAKING ENGLISH

Article 16-28

¡No Se Deje!

Ernestina Valdez Mondragon was driving her daughter to school when she was stopped by a Dallas, Texas policeman.  He cited her for making an illegal U-Turn, not having her drivers’ license and NOT BEING ABLE TO SPEAK ENGLISH.  Mrs. Mondragon was so upset that she was taken to a hospital emergency room.  Mrs. Mondragon, who does have a Texas drivers’ license, went to court to fight the charge for not being able to speak English.  The judge dismissed the charges.  An investigation revealed that Dallas police officers had issued 39 such tickets for not being able to speak English.  Six officers from several different divisions had cited drivers for not speaking English.

 

Police department representatives first minimized the misconduct as merely the foolish mistake of a new and inexperienced officer.  But after the additional 38 cases were publicized, a more serious response was required.  Police Chief David Kunkle admitted that there is no law which requires drivers to be able to speak English.  He apologized and said that all of the citations would be dismissed.  He also said that anyone who paid the $204 fine would be reimbursed.  He also said that he knew that this incident would most likely damage the relationship between the police department and the Latino community.

 

The police officer that issued the ticket to Mrs. Mondragon was a 33 year old trainee officer.  As such, he is required to be accompanied at all times by a training officer.  And, all citations must be approved by a supervising Sergeant.  In this case, a training officer was present during the unlawful citation for not speaking English.  And, the supervising Sergeant did approve the unlawful citation.  The police department did not release the names of the other police officers that issued similar tickets for not speaking English.

 

It is still not known if any of the other victims of this unlawful activity pleaded guilty and now have a non-existent charge of “not speaking English” on their court records or listed as a traffic conviction on their driving records.  A local judge stated that the authorities in these agencies should check to make sure that no improper penalties are imposed on these victims.

 

George Martinez, a law professor, said that the 39 cases sounds like a policy and that “Discrimination on the basis of language ability that targets Latinos sounds pretty serious to me.”  Brenda Reyes of LULAC (League of United Latin American Citizens) said “It’s the principle of the matter that there are police officers out there representing our city who actually think that it’s a crime not to speak English.”

 

Police Chief Kunkle said “an officer has to know the elements of an offense or what’s necessary to constitute a crime.”  This is what is so troubling about this case.  Officers that must know the elements of the offenses have to study each one carefully.  If this had been done, the trainee officer, and certainly the trainer and supervising Sergeant must have known that there is no such law.  So why did this unlawful ticket have to go to court to discover that there is no such law.  And what caused the other 5 officers to issue the other 38 unlawful traffic citations for “non-English speaking driver”?  ¡NO SE DEJE! ®

 

Jess J. Araujo, Esq.

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