Ticketed Driver Says Fluent English Shouldn’t Be Required

September 11, 1998

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Sept. 14 – A Cuban-born truck driver who was ticketed for not speaking English well enough is fighting the charge.
Rogelio Compos, 61, was driving a dump truck in Yonkers, NY, in July when he was stopped and cited for three violations: not displaying the company name on his truck, not being able to produce a card proving he was fit to drive a large vehicle, and not being able to speak English sufficiently.
A Federal Highway Administration spokesman told the Associated Press that the language requirement is meant to ensure that drivers of potentially dangerous vehicles “can read road signs and respond to officials.”
Compos pleaded innocent to the language charge last Wednesday, giving reporters a sample of his English proficiency in heavily accented English by stating the central theme of his defense. “I take the test in Spanish, not English. I go in the school for driving commercial truck in Spanish, not English.”
Compos’ lawyers say the law is unconstitutional because it unfairly targets Hispanics and other non-English-speaking ethnic groups. They also say the regulation is too vague, giving police officers too much discretion. The trial is set for Jan. 5.

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