Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Eleventh Circuit on Arrests and the ADA

Today, in Bircoll v. Miami-Dade County, the Eleventh Circuit issued an opinion that addressed the application of ADA Title II to police arrests. The case involved an individual with a severe hearing impairment who was arrested for DUI. He claimed that the police failed to provide effective communication to him at three points: during the administration of a field sobriety test; during conversations at the police station after his arrest; and during his overnight lockup in jail. Defendants argued that the ADA does not apply to arrests, but the Eleventh Circuit rejected that argument and held that Title II governs everything state and local officials do. But although the court concluded that the ADA applied, it also concluded that the police had made adequate accommodations in the circumstances for the plaintiff's hearing impairment. Accordingly, the Eleventh Circuit upheld the district court's grant of summary judgment to the defendants.

This looks like a nice, careful opinion to me. The court properly recognized that the ADA applies and spent its time assessing the facts to determine whether the defendants acted reasonably. That's the way courts should approach these cases -- instead of trying to carve areas of state government out of Title II's unqualified coverage.

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