Under New Jersey law, it is required that a person submit to a breath test, or breathalyzer, upon being arrested for driving while intoxicated (DWI) if requested to do so by law enforcement. This rule is governed by the New Jersey refusal statute, N.J.S.A. 39:4-50.4a. A driver will lose his or her right to operate a motor vehicle in the State of New Jersey if they were arrested for DWI and then declined the arresting officer's request to submit to a breathalyzer test to determine the individual's blood alcohol content.
Penalties for DWI Breath Test Refusal in NJ
If it is the first conviction for breath test refusal in New Jersey, the minimum penalty is the revocation of the defendant's driver's license until an interlock device is installed by the defendant, which is to be used for 9-15 months after installment. In addition, there will be a fine of at least $300 and potentially as much as $500. For a second refusal conviction, a person will be subject to a driver's license revocation of up to two years and a minimum fine of $500, with a maximum of $1,000. For a third or subsequent conviction for refusal, the driver's license will be revoked for eight years and he or she will receive a fine of $1,000.
When there is a conviction for refusing to take a DWI breath test, the court will order the installation of an ignition interlock device in the defendant's car.
Jail Time is Not Required for DWI Refusal
There is a difference between being arrested for a DWI and being arrested for refusal. Where there is potential jail time for a DWI conviction, there is no jail time for refusing to take a breath test. There is no provision in the refusal statute that states that the person will be sentenced to jail.
The Standard Statement and the Additional Statement
When a driver is stopped for suspicion of DWI, the officer is required to read what is known as a “Standard Statement” prior to conducting the breath test. It is in the Standard Statement that notifies the driver that submitting a breath sample is mandatory under New Jersey law. Additionally, within this statement the penalties for a refusal are outlined by the officer.
There is also what is known as a second set of warnings that must be read to the driver when he or she refuses to take a DWI breath test. This is known as the “Additional Statement”. The Additional Statement is provided to drivers who conditionally agree to be tested or don't specifically decline, but don't approve either. The Additional Statement is a warning that if the driver doesn't take the test, there will be a second summons issued for a refusal. If the officer fails to read either the Standard Statement or the Additional Statement, if necessary, this may be grounds for dismissal of the refusal charge.
Speak to a DWI Lawyer About the NJ Refusal Statute
While DWI itself is a motor vehicle offense rather than a criminal offense, the same applies to violations of the NJ refusal statute. That doesn't make it any less of a problem for a person who has been charged with refusing to take a breath test. With the prospect of a revoked driver's license, fines and other penalties, refusing to take a DWI breath test can cause long-term disruptions to a person's life.
Have you been charged with refusing to take a DWI breath test? If so, it's important they you have legal representation to protect you by calling the law firm of Villani & DeLuca in Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey. Villani & DeLuca's DWI lawyers are experienced and knowledgeable of the ins-and-outs of DWI laws in New Jersey, including the refusal statute. Whether you were charged with refusal in Monmouth County or Ocean County, it's imperative to know your rights. Call for a free consultation today.