When you are stopped for drunk driving in New Jersey, the law requires you to submit to a breath or blood test. There are strict rules surrounding this kind of testing, and refusal to submit to a blood alcohol test can result in jail time and a driver’s license suspension, even if you are not convicted of drunk driving later.
If you or a loved one was arrested for refusing a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) test in the Atlantic City area, contact the Law Offices of John J. Zarych today. Our Atlantic City DWI/DUI test refusal lawyers represent people accused of drunk driving and refusing a BAC test. We offer free legal consultations to help you understand the potential penalties you face and how your case will proceed. To schedule your free legal consultation, contact our law offices today at (609) 616-4956.
Rules for Blood Alcohol Test Refusals in New Jersey
The laws surrounding blood alcohol testing for DWI in New Jersey are somewhat confusing. First, it is important to understand that drunk driving under N.J.S.A. § 39:4-50 is a separate offense from refusing a breathalyzer test under § 39:4-50.4(a). Since these are separate offenses, you can still face penalties for refusing a BAC test even if your DWI charges are ultimately dropped or dismissed in court. Because of this, blood or breath test refusal can be a serious offense.
When driving on the streets of New Jersey, N.J.S.A. § 39:4-50.2 states that you automatically consent to giving a blood or breath test if you are suspected of DWI. This means that when you are arrested under suspicion of drunk driving, the law already considers you to have given permission for a blood or breath test, and police have the legal right to take a sample. Just because you may have legally “given consent” to a blood test does not mean police will hold you down and take a breath or blood sample when they arrest you; instead, they will just charge you with refusal if you do not cooperate.
When police request a BAC test, they are allowed to choose what form of testing you will receive. This is typically limited to breath tests, blood tests, or urine tests – but breathalyzer tests are by far the most common in New Jersey. You can request an additional test if you are willing to pay for it, but you do not get to choose which test the police use. Any time the police perform a test like this, you are entitled to a copy of the results, which you can use in court to fight your charges. If the test shows you had a BAC over .08%, you will likely face drunk driving charges.
Procedures for Taking a Blood or Breath Sample after a DWI Arrest
Police have certain protocols and procedures they must follow before they can charge you with refusing a BAC test. First, police typically request these kinds of tests after arresting you. This means that they must first establish probable cause that you have been driving under the influence to justify the arrest. They do this by pointing to specific signs of intoxication or drug use, such as bloodshot eyes, alcohol on the breath, and other signs of intoxication.
Police must also warn you about the implied consent and your rights when they take the test. This means that they must tell you that the law says you already consented to testing, that you are entitled to a copy of the results, and that you can request additional testing if you want it. They must also warn you of the potential penalties for refusing to submit to a test.
One confusing aspect of DWI refusal laws deals with warrant requirements. Typically, any time the police want to search you, your possessions, or your body, they need a warrant. However, police are entitled to search your person and the immediate area around you as part of the arrest process. In 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court held in Birchfield v. North Dakota that performing a blood test as part of a search incident to arrest is too intrusive – but they did allow police to perform a breath test. This means that it is more likely in New Jersey that you will face a breath test when you are arrested, and that police need a search warrant before they can administer a blood test. However, since the police can choose what form of testing to use, you cannot refuse a blood test without facing charges if they get a warrant first.
Penalties for Refusing a BAC Test in NJ
Refusing a blood or breath test after a DWI arrest results in a fine and automatic driver’s license suspension.
- For a first offense, the fine is $300-$500, and the suspension is 7 months to 1 year.
- For a second offense, the fine is $500-$1,000, and the suspension is 2 years.
- For a third or subsequent offense, the fine is $1,000, the suspension is 10 years, and the driver is required to use an ignition interlock in their car.
If the incident occurred in certain areas, such as a school zone, the fines and suspension periods are increased. For a first offense, the suspension can overlap with the suspension from a DWI/DUI conviction, but for repeat offenders, this license suspension will run after your license suspension from the DWI conviction, effectively doubling your suspension if you refuse a breath test. You may also face additional penalties such as requirements to attend drunk driving classes and pay annual surcharges to keep your license after it is restored.
Call Our Atlantic City Blood and Breath Test Refusal Lawyers Today
If you were arrested for DWI and refused a breath or blood test, contact the Law Offices of John J. Zarych today. Our Atlantic City DWI/DUI test refusal lawyers offer free consultations to help you with your case. Our number is (609) 616-4956.