Warning: The Problem with Refusing a Breathalyzer Request

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It makes perfect sense to you.   You’ve had a couple of drinks.  Therefore, it’s a bad idea to blow into a breathalyzer.  After all, you don’t want to give the police evidence that backs up their DWI charge.  Unfortunately, your decision will most likely work against you.  You won’t be happy with the consequences associated with refusing a request for a breathalyzer.

Meanwhile, it could have been something very innocent that finds you in trouble.  You decided to take your date out to celebrate a holiday.  It was just the two of you, and you are both responsible drinkers. Instead of appointing a designated driver, you chose to limit yourselves to only one or two glasses of champagne.

As you headed to get behind the wheel, you were not feeling tipsy.  As a matter of fact, you were confident that you hadn’t exceeded limits while drinking.  You were thinking clearly and were completely in control of your movements.


As chance would have it, the police pull you over at a DWI stop.   Again, you had little worries that you are in trouble.  However, the smell of alcohol on your breath worked against you.   After the police officer puts you through a sobriety test, she then requested you blow into a breathalyzer.


Admittedly, you panic.  You think of all the consequences that could happen if the breathalyzer shows the alcohol level in your blood above the legal limit.  So, you refuse the test.  No sense taking any chances.


Little do you know that you might have saved yourself by agreeing to the breathalyzer.  After all, the breath sample could confirm you were not driving under the influence.   Instead, you learn that your refusal places you precisely into the situation you aimed to avoid.


Legal Consequences of Refusing Breathalyzer in NJ

According to NJSA 39:4-50.4A, you can face some pretty steep consequences for refusing a breathalyzer in New Jersey.   This would go along with an arrest for a DWI charge in violation of NJSA 39:4-50.  How is that even possible?


Like other state-licensed drivers, New Jersey motor vehicle operators are privileged to have a driver’s license.  When you receive your driver’s license, you also give your implied consent to undergo a breathalyzer test if suspected of a DWI violation.  In fact, NJSA 39:4-50.2 addresses the issues associated with consent to take breath samples.  You cannot be forced to agree to the breathalyzer but must be aware of the consequences of a refusal.


Without making assumptions, you need to understand what the breathalyzer does.  It measures your blood alcohol content (BAC) level at the time of the test.  In New Jersey, drivers of passenger cars may be charged with drunk driving when their BAC is more than .08%.


Penalties for Refusing a Breathalyzer

The penalties associated with a first-time refusal conviction in New Jersey are extensive.   To begin with, you could lose your driver’s license privileges for up to a year.   Additional penalties could include:


  • Up to $1,000 in fines
  • Court costs
  • Compulsory alcohol education at a designated center
  • Higher insurance premiums


In the meantime, penalties increase for subsequent convictions.  Additionally, if the offense occurred while you were in a school zone or school property, you face even more dire consequences.


 Facing Refusal Charges?

If you are facing breathalyzer refusal charges, the Law Offices of Lawrence M. Centanni would like to help you.  Not only have we acted as defense counsel in DWI matters; we are also experienced in municipal prosecution.  Contact us to schedule an appointment.




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