Facing a driving while intoxicated (DWI) charge can be a difficult experience. In New Jersey, a DWI charge can carry hefty penalties, including incarceration and license suspension. However, the penalties for a refusal of chemical testing are slightly different. If you are facing a charge of DWI or another traffic violation in East Brunswick or the surrounding area, you should consult a lawyer who is familiar with the law in this area. Leon Matchin is an experienced defense attorney who can fight aggressively for your rights.Implied Consent Laws and Penalties for Refusal
New Jersey has what is called an implied consent law. Implied consent means that by being licensed to drive in the state of New Jersey, drivers give their consent to a chemical test of their breath, blood, or urine if they are suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol and a sample is requested. If a driver refuses to give a breath sample, which is taken using a device called the Alcotest, the driver is automatically charged with a refusal, which carries the same penalties as a DWI charge. The refusal of a driver to give a breath sample may result in grave consequences. However, New Jersey law does not permit law enforcement to take a breath sample by force or without the consent of the driver.
An officer must have probable cause for suspecting that a driver is DWI before requesting a breath test. Usually, probable cause is established by the officer observing the driver perform some traffic violation, and subsequently suspecting during the ensuing conversation with the driver that he or she may be intoxicated. If all of the circumstances of the stop create probable cause for the officer to make a DWI arrest (meaning that the officer believes that it is likely that the driver is DWI), the officer may arrest the driver and request a breath sample.
However, before actually requesting the breath sample, the officer must inform the driver of the New Jersey law regarding the driver’s submission to or refusal of the breath test. This reading of the law is commonly referred to as Paragraph 36 or the Standard Statement, and it must be read before an officer requests a breath sample. If a driver does not consent to having his or her breath tested, the driver is charged with a refusal.
If you are convicted of a refusal, the charge is separate from a DWI charge under New Jersey law. A refusal conviction differs from a DWI in that there is no jail time penalty associated with the conviction. However, there are a number of severe penalties depending on how many previous refusals a driver has had. For a first-time refusal conviction, there is a minimum seven-month license suspension, a $300 to $500 fine, a required alcohol education class that the defendant must attend, a number of other fines and fees to be paid that are related to the charge, and the installation of an ignition interlock device on the driver’s car. The suspensions, fines, and penalties increase with a second refusal. Moreover, if you refuse a chemical test when driving through a school crossing, on school grounds, or even within 1,000 feet of a school, the penalties double.
There are a number of defenses that may arise when dealing with a refusal case. Officers must have probable cause to even stop a car and driver suspected of DWI. Many times, this will include an improper lane change or alleged weaving. The reason for the stop may be contested, especially if there are other witnesses or the officer has an in-car camera that records the activity of the car and the actions of the driver prior to the stop. Also, officers may make mistakes in reading the Paragraph 36 language. The full language must be read after an arrest and prior to requesting a breath test. Officers may get the procedural order wrong, not read Paragraph 36 in its entirety, or even wait too long to request a breath sample. All of these officer actions may constitute grounds to challenge a refusal arrest.Discuss Your Criminal Charges with an East Brunswick Lawyer
The law surrounding implied consent can be difficult to navigate on your own. It is essential to have a legal advocate protecting your rights when you are facing a refusal charge or other charges related to DWI. Attorney Leon Matchin represents East Brunswick residents as well as people in New Brunswick and other communities across Monmouth, Middlesex, and Mercer Counties. Call today at (732) 662-7658 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.