If the police ask you to take a breath test (the Alcotest or “breathalyzer”) after stopping you on suspicion of driving under the influence (DUI), can you refuse? In New Jersey, the answer is, “No.” Under New Jersey’s law of “implied consent,” refusing to take a breath test when lawfully asked to do so is a stand-alone offense, which means that you can be penalized for your “DUI refusal” even if you are not actually guilty of DUI.
Did you refuse a breath test in Morristown, NJ? If so, here is what you need to know:
1. The Arresting Officer Must Have “Reasonable Grounds” to Believe You are Guilty of DUI
In order for New Jersey’s implied consent law to apply, the arresting officer must have “reasonable grounds” to believe that you are guilty of DUI. Section 39:4-50.2 of the New Jersey Statutes states:
“Any person who operates a motor vehicle on any public road, street or highway or quasi-public area in [New Jersey] shall be deemed to have given his consent to the taking of samples of his breath . . . to determine the content of alcohol in his blood; provided, however, that the taking of samples is made in accordance with the provisions of this act and at the request of a police officer who has reasonable grounds to believe that such person has been operating a motor vehicle [while intoxicated or under the influence of alcohol].”
Lack of “reasonable grounds” is one of several potential defenses to a DUI refusal. To determine whether you can challenge the justification for the officer’s request for a breath sample, you should write down as many details of your arrest as you can remember to share with your attorney.
2. The Arresting Officer Must Advise You of Your Rights
When seeking to conduct a breath test, the arresting officer must advise you of your rights under New Jersey’s implied law. If you were not adequately advised during your arrest, this could provide an additional defense to your DUI refusal. The police are required to inform you of:
- Your right to obtain a copy of your test results upon request;
- Your right to have an independent test performed by a physician of your choosing; and,
- The penalties for refusing to submit to a breath test.
3. The Penalties for DUI Refusals are Severe
The penalties for DUI refusals in New Jersey are severe, and, as we mentioned above, you can be convicted of a DUI refusal even if you are not convicted of DUI. The penalties for a first-time DUI refusal include:
- Hundreds of dollars in fines and fees
- Seven to twelve-month driver’s license suspension
- $1,000/year surcharge for three years
- A minimum of 12 hours of mandatory alcohol education at a cost of $230 per day
These penalties increase substantially if you have been one or more prior DUI convictions.
Speak with Morristown DUI Attorney Scott Gorman
If you refused to consent to a breath test during your DUI arrest, it is important that you discuss your situation with an experienced attorney. To schedule a free consultation at The Gorman Law Firm, please call (201) 489-9199 or contact us online today.