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Deaf Man Held for 25 Days Without Interpreter

By Cynthia Hsu, Esq. on November 28, 2011 12:09 PM

A new lawsuit alleges that a deaf man was held in county jail for 25 days without a sign language interpreter before the charges against him were eventually dropped. The suit was filed against Adams County, Colorado.

Timothy Siaki filed the claim in federal court. He says that officials violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Siaki was arrested on May 14, 2010 at a motel over a noise complaint. Siaki and his fiancé, Kimberlee Moore, were arguing. Moore is also hearing impaired. Officials reportedly knocked down the motel room door and tackled Siaki to the floor when he didn't respond to their orders to open up.

Ironic, considering Siaki is deaf. He probably couldn't hear the officer's commands. Siaki reportedly doesn't read or write English. He also doesn't read lips. He communicates through American Sign Language.

Siaki's fiancé tried to tell authorities that he hadn't hurt her, but she was unable to because she was also not provided an interpreter. Domestic assault charges against Siaki were dropped 25 days later.

The fact that Siaki was held for 25 days without an interpreter may demonstrate that Adams County violated the ADA. Under the ADA, police officers are required to effectively communicate with those who are deaf or hard of hearing. Sometimes an interpreter may not be necessary, such as if the individual can lip read or can communicate through other means.

In Siaki's case, he couldn't lip read. He also couldn't communicate effectively with officers any other way except through sign language. In this situation, it seems that Adams County probably should have provided an interpreter so they could interview him and inform him of his rights effectively.

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