What Happens if I Refuse a Breath Test?
It is the end of the week and you decide to go out to the bar with a couple of buddies after work. Your plan is to have a few drinks and drive home without an issue. Instead, you end up having a couple more drinks than you originally planned on and still decide to get in your car. The flashing police lights appear in your rearview mirror and now you have a decision to make.
If the police officer asks you to submit to a breath test, you are pretty confident that you will fail. The thought runs through your mind that you could instead refuse the test and the authorities will not have proof that you were driving above the legal limit. While this may sound like a good idea in theory, you may actually dig yourself a deeper hole by refusing a breath test in New Jersey.
Implied Consent Law
New Jersey is notably tough on drinking and driving. This starts with the implied consent law. The moment you operate a motor vehicle, you have given the authorities your consent to administer a breath test.
However, in order to request a breath test, the arresting officer must have probable cause to believe that the driver is under the influence of alcohol. If the driver chooses to refuse the test, he or she essentially surrenders their driving privileges.
The penalties for a DUI conviction are pretty extreme, so it would make sense for you to think that refusing a breath test would be lighter. This is not necessarily the case, as refusal penalties are fairly strict as well. Refusing a breath test can result in a number of severe penalties that may both restrict your freedom and cost you a significant amount of money:
License suspension for up to a year
Fines up to $500 plus court costs
Intoxicated Driver Resource Center program
Ignition interlock device
These penalties are naturally even more severe for second- and third-time offenders. Refusal penalties also are directly associated with DUI penalties, so your refusal penalty will be more severe if you have a DUI conviction on your record. Point being, the penalties for refusing a breath test are not any more lenient than the penalties associated with a DUI conviction.
If you find yourself in a situation where you need representation, make sure to contact an experienced attorney to help you navigate your case.