Imagine you’re driving in a foreign country and a police officer stops you on the road. You don’t speak the cop’s language and they don’t speak yours, so a halting exchange ensues using a laptop and Google Translate. You’re not always sure what the officer is asking, and you end up agreeing to something you didn’t quite understand, and are arrested.
That’s what happened to Omar Cruz-Zamora, a Mexican native in the US on a legal visa, in Kansas last September. Based on a typed exchange using Google Translate, he agreed to let police search his car—he wasn’t legally required to—and was arrested for possession of 14 pounds of cocaine and methamphetamines. On June 4, a Kansas court granted Cruz-Zamora’s motion to suppress the evidence, finding Google Translate isn’t good enough for constitutional search purposes.