What happens if I refuse to take breath test during a DWI stop?

A police officer will need to prove that a suspect was engaging in drunk driving before arresting them. The officer will often do this by checking for signs of impairment by administering field sobriety tests and a breath test to determine the driver’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level.

Due to implied consent laws, permission isn’t necessary for police officers to conduct roadside tests with New Jersey residents who have a driver’s license. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t refuse to participate in any of the tests.

Are there penalties for refusal?

However, skipping out on taking a breath test comes with punishment. Depending on how many drunk driving offenses you’ve previously received, the penalties vary:

  • First-time offenders will face a fine ranging from $300 to $500, license suspension until they install an ignition interlock device (IID) and must take a 12-hour program at a state Intoxicated Driver Resource Center
  • Second-time offenders will face a fine ranging from $500 to $1,000, a one- to two-year license suspension, required IID installation and 48-hour detainment at a state Intoxicated Driver Resource Center
  • Third-time offenders will face a $1,000 fine, an eight-year license suspension and required IID installation

Depending on your level of offense, you’ll be looking at nine months to 4 years of driving with an IID. You will also have to pay a car insurance surcharge for three years following your charge.

Are there benefits to refusal?

With all the penalties against a driver who chooses to refuse taking a breathalyzer test, you are probably wondering if it’s worth the risk. If you think the breath test will reveal intoxication, then taking the test might make defending your innocence more difficult. But, you could receive a DWI charge regardless of BAC test participation. So, it’s worth noting that DWI offenders could face jail time and a mark on their criminal record on top of all the breath test refusal penalties and other consequences.

It’s ultimately your decision to take the breath test or not. But having a strong defense team will help your case no matter what you decide.

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