Thomas Carroll Blauvelt

Is it really against the law to refuse a breath test in New Jersey?

Knowing your rights is crucial during an encounter with law enforcement. Any police officer that you interact with while driving could issue a citation or even arrest you. If an officer thinks that you have recently consumed alcohol, they might try to question you after they stop your vehicle.  

Those questions could lead to a field sobriety test, and your performance on the test could eventually lead to the officer asking for a chemical breath test. Such tests, even if they often prove inaccurate, could help that officer bring impaired driving charges against you.  

Can you refuse to take a breath test when an officer requests it as part of a traffic stop? 

New Jersey state law requires you to take the test 

Driving is not a right. It is a privilege, which means that the state can put limitations or restrictions on it. The implied consent law in New Jersey essentially requires that everyone driving on the road will agree to chemical testing if a police officer has probable cause to request one.  

Your answers to questions during a traffic stop, your performance on the field sobriety test they perform or even the way you drove before they pulled you over could be probable cause to request the test. Denying it might mean that the officer arrests you right there because you violated the implied consent law.  

What are the penalties for refusing the test? 

Instead of getting you out of trouble, refusing a chemical test can increase the consequences you face. Under New Jersey law, a first violation of the implied consent law will mean between $300 and $500 in fines and the suspension of your license for between seven months and a year.   

A second offense increases the penalties to fines of between $500 and $1,000 and a suspension that lasts for two years. A third or subsequent offense means a $1,000 fine and the loss of your license for a decade.  

Additionally, just refusing to take a chemical test won’t stop the officer from charging you with a drunk driving offense. When you understand laws that apply during impaired driving traffic stops, you can make better decisions as you talk to the police or respond to pending drunk driving charges. 

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