What Happens if You Are Charged with Refusing a Breathalyzer Test Under N.J.S.A. 39:4-50.2?

Every motorist is aware that driving while intoxicated (DWI) is a serious traffic offense that can result in fines and incarceration.  What fewer people realize is that refusing to submit to a breathalyzer test in New Jersey can result in penalties almost as serious as those you would receive if you were convicted of DWI.

Arrested for DUI in NJ? Schedule a Free Consultation with Our Atlantic City DWI Lawyers

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DWI and related offenses are traffic violations, not crimes, in the state of New Jersey.  However, you will still face harsh penalties if you are found guilty.  In addition to being fined thousands of dollars and being forced to attend expensive driver safety courses, you will also lose your driving privileges for months or potentially years while your license is temporarily suspended.  DWI and breathalyzer refusals can also have catastrophic impacts on your career, especially if you are employed as a teacher, driver, trucker, or pilot.

The New Jersey DWI lawyers at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych have more than 45 years of experience representing drivers charged with breathalyzer refusals, drunk driving, underage drinking, and related offenses.  We will challenge every aspect of your arrest to determine whether your Constitutional rights were violated.  It may be possible to have your sentence reduced or have the case dismissed altogether.

If you or one of your family members was arrested for drunk driving in New Jersey, turn to our experienced Atlantic City DWI attorneys for aggressive legal representation.  Call our law offices at (609) 625-3006 right away to schedule a free legal consultation.

When Do You Have to Consent to BAC Testing for Drunk Driving?

New Jersey’s implied consent law requires all drivers to submit to a breath test upon arrest for driving while intoxicated.  This law can be found under N.J.S.A. § 39:4-50.2, which provides, “Any person who operates a motor vehicle on any public road, street or highway or quasi-public area in this State shall be deemed to have given his [or her] consent to the taking of [breath] samples… for the purpose of making chemical tests to determine the content of alcohol in his [or her] blood.”

Such testing must be performed “at the request of a police officer who has reasonable grounds to believe that [the driver] has been operating a motor vehicle” while intoxicated in violation of New Jersey’s DWI laws.  In other words, the arresting officer must have probable cause, which is the reasonable, fact-based belief that DWI has been committed.  In a DWI arrest, probable cause is generally based on the arresting officer’s observations, such as the smell of alcohol or the motorist’s erratic driving.  Our New Jersey drunk driving lawyers will vigorously investigate whether the police had probable cause to arrest you for DWI.

New Jersey’s implied consent law does not extend to blood tests, meaning you are not required to consent to a blood draw.  In order to take your blood without consent, the police must either first obtain a warrant, or there must be exigent (emergency) circumstances.  Courts have ruled that dissipation of alcohol from the blood does not, in and of itself, create exigent circumstances.

What Are the Penalties for Refusing a Breathalyzer Test?

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The penalties for refusing to submit to a breathalyzer test become increasinglysevere as the driver accumulates repeat offenses.  Though incarceration is not a penalty, you may nonetheless face heavy fines and a long period of license suspension.  You will also be required to complete a certain number of hours at an Intoxicated Driver Resource Center (IDRC), where you’ll be required to watch videos and participate in discussions about safe driving.  You may be referred to a program for substance abuse depending on how your needs are evaluated.

New Jersey penalties for a first offense refusal to submit to a breathalyzer test include:

  • IDRC — Minimum of 12 hours
  • License Suspension — 7 months to 1 year (1 year to 2 years if the refusal occurred in a school zone)
  • Fines and Fees
    • General Fine — $300 to $500 ($600 to $1,000 if the refusal occurred in a school zone)
    • IDRC Fee — $230 per day
    • Drunk Driving Fund — $100
    • Alcohol Education and Rehabilitation Fund (AERF) — $100
    • Neighborhood Services Fund — $75
    • Surcharge — $1,000 per year for 3 years ($3,000 total)

For a second offense, here’s how the penalties increase:

  • The general fine increases to $500 to $1,000 ($1,000 to $2,000 if the refusal occurred in a school zone).
  • The license suspension period increases to two years (four years if the refusal occurred in a school zone).

For a third offense and all subsequent offenses, the penalties increase even further:

  • The general fine increases to $1,000 ($2,000 if the refusal occurred in a school zone).
  • The surcharge increases to $1,500 per year ($4,500 total).
  • The license suspension period increases dramatically to 10 years (20 years if the refusal occurred in a school zone).

The penalties for a breathalyzer refusal can interfere with every aspect of your daily life, weighing you down with enormous fines while taking away your ability to drive.  There can also be negative repercussions for your career.  It’s vital that you act quickly to start reviewing your legal options.

Call our Atlantic City intoxicated driving lawyers at (609) 625-3006 immediately for a free legal consultation.  We will keep your information confidential.