Getting behind the wheel after having a few drinks is never a good idea. Nonetheless, it's not unusual for individuals to chance it and operate a vehicle with alcohol in their system. Even if you've only had a couple beverages and feel as though you're in full control of your faculties, you should understand that you're still susceptible to a DWI.
In the event that a police officer pulls you over, you may think that it's in your best interests to refuse a breathalyzer. If you believe that you're not impaired and that the breath analysis could issue a false positive, you can technically refuse to submit to one. Be advised, however, that such a decision comes with consequences.
New Jersey's implied consent laws
In DWI cases, the state of New Jersey employs what are known as "implied consent laws." What this means is that the state views driving as a privilege, and in exchange for that privilege a driver implicitly consents to a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) test when they take the wheel.
In short, by refusing to take a BAC test, you're surrendering your driving privileges. If you have multiple DWI offenses and believe that the penalty for refusing a breathalyzer would be more favorable, you should be aware that New Jersey's laws are strict. A first time offender for such a refusal is looking at a driver's license suspension for a minimum of 7 months.
What happens when you refuse the breathalyzer test?
Because of New Jersey's implied consent laws, refusal of a BAC test is an unlawful act. Due to the fact that an officer cannot forcibly coerce you into taking a breathalyzer, it's true that you can refuse it on that technicality. Aside from the suspension of your license, however, there are other serious penalties on the table when you refuse the test.
Most notably, you should be aware that if you refuse a breathalyzer you can still end up with a DWI charge. A prosecutor can rely on other evidence that's taken at the scene, such as witness testimony, the arresting officer's observations and the outcome of your field sobriety test when levying such a charge.
In summation, refusing to take a breathalyzer is oftentimes a poor decision. It's possible that doing so could result in an additional charge on top of a DWI, handing you an even harsher penalty. If you've found yourself in a situation where a DWI looms, it may be prudent to consult with an experienced attorney.