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Is Refusing Breath Tests in New Jersey a Good Idea?

refusing breath tests New JerseyUnder the legal concept of “implied consent,” refusing breath tests requested by a police officer is a serious offense in New Jersey. Because drunk drivers cause more than 50% of all car accidents, the state has passed legislation specifying that you agree (intentionally or not) to such tests the moment you pull onto any road in the state.

Refusing breath tests will result in a “Refusal to Submit” charge. You may be wondering how serious this is, and asking yourself, “Do I stand a chance in court?” The answers are “very” and “possibly,” respectively.

At Samuel Louis Sachs Esq LLC, we may be able to help you avoid a Refusal conviction. To better understand why and how, let’s take a closer look at Refusal to Submit.

What to Know Before the Test

Before ordering a breath test, the officer must read you a detailed series of statements from the state DWI Statute. Here’s the condensed version:

  • The law requires breath testing to determine alcohol content.
  • We’ll record the results and give you copies.
  • You can pay for someone to do independent blood and/or urine tests at your own expense.
  • You’ll receive a separate court summons for Refusal (emphasizing that DWI and Refusal are two separate violations).
  • The court will penalize you heavily if you’re found guilty of Refusal, above and beyond any DWI penalties.
  • You have no legal right to have anyone present at the time of the test.
  • You cannot refuse the test.
  • Ambiguous or conditional responses and silence count as refusals.
  • Not following instructions, improperly performing the test, or refusing to take the test repeatedly until the officer is satisfied also count as refusals.
  • Do you agree to take the test?
  • If you say no, the officer will reject your answer as unacceptable and ask once more.

Even if you’re perfectly sober or disagree with the law, it’s in your best interests to say “Yes” (firmly and audibly) and take the test.

Refusing Breath Tests Can Lead to Trouble

If you refuse one or more breath tests, the officer will charge you with both DWI and Refusal to Submit. You will also be much more likely to be convicted for DWI, because the state will assume you refused testing because you were intoxicated.

Incidentally, refusing breath tests during a suspected DWI stop is not a constitutional right. In the past, defendants have appealed informed consent at every court level, including the U.S. Supreme Court, and lost every time.

What Are the Penalties for Refusal?

Even if the court dismisses your DWI charge, you may still face harsh penalties for Refusal. All Refusal convictions result in:

  • The installation of an ignition interlock device in your car for the duration of your license revocation.
  • A state surcharge of $3,000.
  • An insurance surcharge of $3,000.

Other penalties include:

First Offense:

  • Driver’s license revocation for 7-12 months.
  • A $300-500 fine.
  • A 12-hour alcohol education course through the Intoxicated Driver Resource Center (IDRC).

Second Offense:

  • Driver’s license revocation for two years.
  • A $500-1,000 fine.
  • A 48-hour IDRC course under detainment.

Third or Subsequent Offenses:

  • Driver’s license revocation for ten years.
  • A $1,000 fine.
  • A 12- to 48-hour IDRC detainment.
  • Possible additional mandatory treatment.
  • An additional $1,500 surcharge from the state.

If you’re convicted of Refusal in or near a school zone or crossing, the fines and revocation periods double.

Are There Legal Defenses Available?

You may have a defense against Refusal to Submit if:

  • The officer failed to read you the statements outlined above.
  • You suffered legitimate confusion concerning the statements read to you.
  • You did not speak or understand English, and the officer failed to provide someone to read the above statements to you in a language you did understand.
  • The vehicle stop was not valid; that is, the officer had no reasonable suspicion that your driving was impaired.

Speak to an Experienced DUI Attorney to Learn More

If the police have charged you with Refusal to Submit, you may still be able to avoid a conviction and penalties. Don’t let confusion or an uninformed mistake limit your freedom. We may be able to help you even if you’re cited for refusing breath test requests at a suspected DWI stop. Call Samuel Louis Sachs Esq LLC today for a consultation.

About the Author

Criminal Defense Attorney Samuel L. Sachs, Esq. is committed to provide excellent legal services for all types of criminal matters throughout New Jersey.