A police car flips on its lights behind you, and you pull over. The officer comes up to talk with you, saying that you ran a stop sign. You say that you never saw it.
It's close to midnight, and it's dark out. Even so, the officer asks you to take a breath test, saying that missing the sign entirely could be a signal that you are intoxicated.
The officer did ask you to take the test, but is it really a question? Can you refuse the Breathalyzer if you do not want to take it? Perhaps you have heard that breath tests are unreliable and you worry about getting arrested based on an inaccurate test.
Tests are mandatory
You cannot refuse a breath test in New Jersey. The state uses implied consent laws. This means that, just by virtue of driving your car, you have already agree to take the test if legally stopped by the police. Refusing to do so is illegal.
If you do refuse, you can face legal penalties as a result.
A first offense means that you lose your license for seven months, at least. This is mandatory. It could be as long as a year. You will get fined anywhere between $300 and $500, and you will need to pay $100 to the Drunk Driving Enforcement Fund (DDEF).
For a second offense, your fine could come in between $500 and $1,000. You will lose your driver's license, and this time it will be for two years. Again, you will have to pay $100 to the Drunk Driving Enforcement Fund.
Anything after a second offense gets you a fine of $1,000, plus the $100 to the Drunk Driving Enforcement Fund. You will lose your license yet again, and this time it is serious: You lose it for 10 years. That's a decade with no ability to drive, just for refusing the test.
Another key point to remember is that the charges listed above are just for refusing the breath test. You could still face DWI charges. Even without a breath test, the officer is going to arrest you and may still be able to prove you were drunk through field sobriety tests or a blood test back at the station.
So, if you're thinking of refusing that test in order to trade your DWI charges for a refusal charge, it may not be that simple. You could face both charges at the same time, and that can really lead to some serious ramifications.
If this happens to you, it is very important that you fully understand the laws in New Jersey and the options you have.