Consequences for Refusing a Breath Test
- Dan T. Matrafajlo
- Mon Feb 2016
Are there consequences for refusing a breath test? If you are pulled over and accused of driving while intoxicated (DWI), your first inclination may be to forego the breathalyzer. Perhaps you are concerned that the test could produce false positives or that it will serve to confirm your state of intoxication. Whatever your logic, you should know that are consequences associated with refusing a breath test.
The Way it Works
The privilege of receiving a New Jersey driver’s license comes with obligations. One of them specifically deals with implied consent as it concerns driving while intoxicated. If a police officer pulls you over and suspects you are drunk behind the wheel, you will first be directed to produce the usual documentation. You may then be questioned about your destination and activities prior to entering your vehicle.
More than likely, the police officer will then direct you through field sobriety tests. Next, will come the request for the breathalyzer. The law as far as implied consent and breath tests is spelled out in NJSA 39:4-50.2. In short, it states that if you are operating a motor vehicle, you have given your consent to the breathalyzer. There is some standard language that the police officer must recite should you refuse to submit to the test.
If You Refuse the Test
The police officer may try to change your mind about refusing the breath test, by reading a standard statement suggested by the state Attorney General’s office. It presents the consequences of refusing the breath test, such as losing a license for up to 20 years and fines of up to $2,000. Refusal to take the breathalyzer can also invoke a requirement for installation of an ignition interlock device and outside help for intoxicated drivers.
One recent New Jersey case dealt with a driver who said she found the statement was not strong enough to deter her refusal. In State v. Quintero, A-2186-13T4 (App. Div.: January 27, 2016), the Appellate Division considered Ms. Quintero’s contention that she would have submitted to the breath test had she realized the mandatory minimum penalties for refusal. The court disagreed. The standard statement as cited above should be enough to encourage someone to submit to the breathalyzer test.
What are the Penalties for Refusing the Test?
If you refuse to submit to a breath test and there is reason to believe you are drunk behind the wheel, the police officer may escort you to the hospital. There, staff will draw your blood and obtain blood alcohol readings. Refusal to take a breathalyzer is treated the same as a DWI conviction as far as loss of license. In addition, the State of New Jersey has mandatory fines and penalties as listed in this chart.