Latinos and Criminal Law
I have handled thousands of criminal defense and personal injury cases throughout my 20 year Las Vegas legal career. Numerous clients have informed me of the treatment they have received, which is not in par with the treatment non-Latino client’s receive. For example, clients have complaints of excessive abuse by officers. One told me the officer asked him to step out of the car at gun point for a minor infraction. Other Latino clients have explained that they were required to show identification as passengers when the driver was pulled over for a minor offense. Other clients had their cash bails voided and were kept in jail for longer periods of time. These stories are not unique and are not a once-in-a-while occurrence. They unfortunately happen more often than not.
The discrimination is horrible and we must not tolerate it. However, if you are white, you may not realize it. So, I will try to explain it in a way that you might understand.
Imagine you moved to Mexico. You are home your family and you just moved into a new home. Your husband is outside painting your new home with family members and friends. An ice cream truck starts to blare its music and attracts the attention of your kids. Your kids cross the small quiet neighborhood street to get ice cream. As your daughter is returning a vehicle going 50-55 mph (in a neighborhood: 25 mph zone) zooms from behind a vehicle turning left just in back of the ice cream truck and zooms passed numerous kids by the ice cream truck running over your daughter who was waiting to cross back.
You panic and rush to your daughter’s aid. Her foot is covered in blood but luckily it was only her foot and not her entire body.
The at-fault driver of the vehicle appears to be a young juvenile and he immediately apologizes for the incident and offers to take the girl to the hospital. The older female passenger in the juvenile’s vehicle tells him your daughter should not be out in the street and tells him to get back in the car and they flee the scene.
You call the police. You have difficulty because you speak only English. 911 gets someone who speaks English and you explained the situation and they immediately send 2 police officers to the scene. Unfortunately, the officers do not speak English.
The officers arrive and start to speak Spanish to you. You explain in broken Spanish. The officer appears upset that you don’t speak Spanish well enough. The juvenile driver and the passenger walk back to the scene without the vehicle. They approach the officer and start to speak Spanish to him. You understand enough Spanish to realize that they are lying to the officer about who was driving. The lady keeps saying she was driving. Your husband explains to the officer, again in broken Spanish, that the juvenile kid was driving. The juvenile finally admits it. Nonetheless, the officer is not interested in your story. You do not speak Spanish well enough for him to understand. He decides to listen only to the individuals who fled the scene, sped through the neighborhood, and just lied about the facts of the incident.
The passenger starts to yell at you in English, “it’s your fault for letting your kid run around.”
You get upset. You, carrying your child, start to approach the officer so he can see the severity of the damage. Your kid’s foot is covered in blood. The skin has been pealed back. The officer pushes you with his arm. You almost fall back and take steps to prevent falling with your while your holding your daughter in your arms. The officer than yells at you in Spanish with such anger that he spits while yelling “Cállate, es tu culpa!” You understand that to mean “Shut up, it’s your fault.”
You again try to explain the situation, but the officer yells and starts to imitate your daughter with her arms in the air crossing the street saying, “ve, me van a pegar. (see, I’m going to get hit)” You get so upset that you go into your house crying waiting for the ambulance to arrive.
Your husband meanwhile tries to explain that the juvenile was speeding. The officer tells him that he does not care because he did not see him speeding. Your husband asks for information on the vehicle and the driver. The officer tells him he will get the information. Your husband states that the juvenile driver seems too young to driver. The officer finds out the juvenile does not have a license.
The ambulance arrives. The officers see you leave with your daughter and her wrapped up bloody foot. The police tell the driver and passenger they can leave. They finish by walking over to the ice cream truck where they get a free ice cream and sodas.
The police prevented your husband from getting information. They told a juvenile driver, with no license, who initially lied to them and fled the scene, who sped through the neighborhood running over your little girl’s food, without attaining even a name or an address.
No report is filed. No information is given. For months, your daughter was unable to walk and suffered tremendously. To date, your daughter is afraid of the police. Moreover, you now have medical bills and expenses, and no information to pursue any action against the at-fault driver.
The officers failed to do an exchange of driver’s information and/or failed to do a report even though there was an injury.
If you think this story is horrible, you would be right. However, it is a true story except it did not occur in Mexico. It occurred in Las Vegas, Nevada. And my clients did not speak English, they spoke Spanish and the officers spoke only English. No report was filed. No information given.
Their ability to recover for the incident was taken. My clients never had the opportunity to give their side.
Update: See the coverage on this from the Las Vegas Sun