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New Jersey Breath Test Refusal Charges Lawyer

In New Jersey, if an officer suspects you are driving while intoxicated, it may seem like a good idea to refuse the chemical breath test, especially when you’ve had one too many drinks. You may worry that by taking the test, you will end up in more trouble.  However, by deciding not to take this test, your problems may actually have gotten that much worse. As a municipal court prosecutor and seasoned DUI defense attorney, I understand all the issues and defenses surrounding this charge. Being charged with DUI and Refusal is exceptionally taxing and may cause a lot of confusion and questions. That is why we have provided the below outline, which better helps to explain what happens when you refuse a breathalyzer test and how our law office can help you.

New Jersey Chemical Breath Test Laws

New Jersey follows “Implied Consent Laws,” which require every motorist to submit to a chemical breath test when they are requested to do so.  When you sign your driver’s license, you agree to these laws and consent to testing for alcohol or drugs, when an officer asks. If an individual refuses this test, it is considered an acknowledgment of guilt that can result in harsh fines, motor vehicle surcharges, civil penalties, and a suspension of driving privileges.

In 2019, when New Jersey made substantial changes to its state’s driving while intoxicated (DWI) laws, certain aspects of the implied consent laws changed, especially in terms of the specific penalties. The new regulations decreased the period of license suspension as a punishment. However, instead, they also made it mandatory for those convicted of a DWI or a refusal to comply with a breath test to install an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) in their vehicle, which is an expense that the defendant is responsible for paying. 

What Happens When You Refuse a Breath Test?

Trying to decide between taking a chemical breath test when you know that you have been drinking is nerve-wrenching. However, refusing to do so can leave you with significant problems, which can include jail time, driver license suspension, and hefty fines. As you will see from the below list, the ramifications for refusing a chemical breath test are exceptionally taxing. Further, just because you refuse a chemical breath test, it does not mean you will not be found guilty of driving while intoxicated. You can still be convicted even if the state does not have the proof that you were operating your vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. In fact, there is a presumption that if you refused to take the Alcotest, you did so because you were intoxicated.

NJ Refusal Law

NJ Breath Test Refusal Charges are Governed by two interrelated statutes, NJSA 39:4-50.2 & NJSA 39:4-50.4a. The penalties are as follows.

Refusing to Submit to a Chemical Breath Test- First Offense:

  • A fine usually ranging from $300 to $500.
  • A driver’s license suspension that will last until you have the IID installed in your vehicle. The IID remains in the motor vehicle for 9-15 months.
  • A $100 fine to the Drunk Driving Enforcement Fund.
  • An Intoxicated Driver Resource Center referral.

Refusing to Submit to a Chemical Breath Test- Second Offense:

  • A fine usually ranging from $500 to $1000.
  • A driver’s license suspension that can last between 1-2 years and installation of an IID, which will remain in the vehicle for 2-4 years.
  • A $100 fine to the Drunk Driving Enforcement Fund.
  • An Intoxicated Driver Resource Center referral.

Refusing to Submit to a Chemical Breath Test- Third Offense:

  • A fine of $1000.
  • A driver’s license suspension that can last up to 8 years. During this time, an IID is installed and will remain installed 2 to 4 years after the suspension period. 
  • A mandatory 180 days in jail, 90 days of which are served in an inpatient rehabilitation program.
  • A $100 fine to the Drunk Driving Enforcement Fund.
  • An Intoxicated Driver Resource Center referral.
  • Motor vehicle commission surcharges that can add up to $3,000 and nine possible motor vehicle insurance points. 

Potential Defenses to Refusing a Chemical Breath Test

Many people question whether there are any defenses to refusing breathalyzer test charges. With the help of an experienced defense attorney, the answer is yes; however, it will depend on the circumstances of your case. 

  • Officer Mistake: A possible defense to refusing a breathalyzer test is that the officer did not comply with reading the entire DMV Standard Statement 36. After an arrest, the officer must inform you of your rights by reading you a standard statement that will explain to you the consequences of refusing a chemical breath test. However, if a police officer does not read this statement to you in the entirety, it can work as a defense in your favor.
  • Confusion About Legal Obligation: This defense does not mean that you were confused because you were intoxicated; rather, it means you did not understand your rights or had incorrect information or advice from the police. 
  • Physical Inability: In some instances, an individual may not have the physical ability to provide a breath sample because of a medical condition (trauma, lung disease, or other respiratory/ breathing issues.) If the defendant can prove that this was the reason for their refusal, it can work as a defense on their behalf. 
  • No Probable Cause: Another possible defense is if the police officer did not have probable cause to stop your car in the first place or to believe that you were driving or in actual physical control of your vehicle while under the influence.
  • Driveway Defense: If you are not arrested on the roadway, but rather in your driveway, for example, this too can be a potential defense.
  • Language Barrier: In certain situations, the defendant may not understand the police officer because of a language barrier and did not actually refuse the breathalyzer test. 

How An Attorney Can Help

Dealing with drunk driving charges is stressful in itself. However, also having to deal with charges due to refusing a breath test can add up to a lot of problems and excessive expenses. If you or a loved one is dealing with allegations that are related to New Jersey’s “Refusal to Take a Breath Test” law, you must speak with an experienced lawyer as quickly as you can. They can not only help protect your individual rights but work with you to come up with the most robust defenses possible in your refusal case. 

Law Office of Anthony J. Vecchio

Attorney Anthony J. Vecchio is dedicated to defending those accused of crimes, serious vehicle violations, and DWIs. He has handled many challenging cases that dealt with New Jersey’s chemical breath test laws and knows how to navigate through this intricate legal process. Through his work and experience, he understands that having proper legal representation is vital to your chance of success, no matter what the charges against you are. That is why, do not wait any longer, contact the Law Office of Anthony J. Vecchio today to discuss your case.

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    “Mr. Vecchio was very thorough and efficient. His team was accommodating and the ultimate outcome was better than expected. Mr. Vecchio kept me up to date with every detail via emails and text messages. An all around good guy and family man.”
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