Suppose you have imbibed in alcohol at a local bar or at a friend’s house and now you are faced with the challenge of deciding how you will make it home. One option is driving your own car, which you used to get to the bar or friend’s house, home. The other option is taking a taxi or using a ride sharing service to get home. Let’s say that, because you did not want to leave your car parked outside of the bar or your friend’s house, you decide to drive home. While driving, you get pulled over by a police officer. During the stop, the police officer asks you to take a breathalyzer test because the officer suspects you are drunk. Can you refuse to take the test?
Can I Legally Refuse to Take the Breathalyzer Test Under NJ Law?
The short answer to this question is “yes.” According to New Jersey law, a police officer cannot force you to take a breathalyzer test if you refuse to do so. However, if you do refuse to take the test, you may be subject to serious civil and criminal consequences.
Civil Consequences for Refusing to Take a Breathalyzer Test in NJ
In New Jersey, there is a law called the implied consent statute. This law essentially states that, if a New Jersey police officer stops a New Jersey driver under suspicion that the driver is driving with intoxicated (“DWI”) or driving under the influence (“DUI”), the driver, by virtue of obtaining a New Jersey driver’s license, gives their implied consent to the officer to submit to chemical testing to test their BAC level. While the implied consent law prohibits New Jersey police officers from forcing New Jersey drivers to actually take a breathalyzer test, the statute allows for the New Jersey Department of Motor Vehicles to suspend your driver’s license and impose fines on you for refusing to submit to testing.
Specifically, New Jersey’s implied consent statute permits the New Jersey Department of Motor Vehicles to:
- Suspend your driver’s license for a period of seven months and to fine you between $300 to $500 for your first refusal
- Suspend your driver’s license for a period of two years and to fine you between $500 and $1,000 for your second refusal
- Suspend your driver’s license for a period of ten years and to fine you $1,000 for your third or subsequent refusal
Moreover, if you refuse to submit to a breathalyzer test after being stopped by a police officer within 1,000 feet of a school, the fines for each refusal may be doubled. Consequently, while New Jersey’s implied consent statute permits people to refuse testing, it also imposes harsh civil penalties on those who do refuse.
Criminal Consequences for Refusing to Take a Breathalyzer Test in NJ
In addition to civil penalties, refusal to submit to a breathalyzer test can cause a person to suffer criminal penalties as well. For example, even though a person refuses to take a breathalyzer test, and, therefore, there is no evidence of that person’s specific BAC level, a person may still be found guilty of the crimes of DWI or DUI based on the testimony of the arresting officer. Moreover, in DWI or DUI criminal cases, New Jersey courts may allow the prosecutor to use the fact that you refused to take a breathalyzer test as evidence of guilt. Consequently, even if you refuse to submit to a breathalyzer test, you may still sustain a criminal conviction for DWI or DUI, which carries a sentence of jail time, subsequent probation, and imposition of additional fines and costs.
Contact an Experienced Moorestown Criminal Defense Lawyer About Your DUI Charges in New Jersey
Were you arrested or charged with DUI and breath test refusal in New Jersey? The consequences of a conviction could be severe, leaving you with a permanent criminal record and possibly even sending you to jail. That is why you need to speak with a qualified criminal defense attorney as soon as possible about your case. The attorneys at The Law Offices of Stephen R. Piper LLC have successfully represented clients charged with DUI in Moorestown, Burlington City, Camden, Haddonfield and throughout New Jersey. Call (856) 351-5335 or fill out the online contact form to schedule a consultation with a member of our legal team. We have an office conveniently located at 212 W. Route 38, Suite 440, Moorestown, NJ 08057.
The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.