Can you refuse a breath test during a New Jersey traffic stop?

Can you refuse a breath test during a New Jersey traffic stop?

During a traffic stop, police officers will often ask multiple questions about driver behaviors that they noted. Asking whether someone has had any alcohol recently is a common inquiry, and confirming that you have had something to drink might result in an officer asking you to step out of the vehicle. 

After you get out of the car, the officer may guide you through a field sobriety test. If they feel like the test results indicate chemical impairment or drunk driving, they will likely ask you to perform a chemical breath test. 

Breath tests analyze exhaled air to calculate the likely level of alcohol in someone’s bloodstream. The results of a test can give an officer a reason to arrest you and serve as evidence for prosecutors to present when trying a case against you in court. Can you refuse to take the test to avoid the issues that might arise if you fail it?

Refusing the test is a separate legal violation

Impaired driving is a common criminal offense and one that has safety implications for the public. Police officers are often quite aggressive in enforcing the law, making some people feel like they need to push back. Refusing a chemical test seems like a reasonable decision, as people have the right not to incriminate themselves. 

However, such rights largely apply to active investigations with police and court proceedings. There is actually a state law that requires that drivers perform breath tests when officers have probable cause. Every driver gives implied consent to chemical testing when they accept their license and drive on New Jersey roads. 

When you refuse a chemical test, officers can use that as a reason to arrest you and can suspend your license as a result. They can also choose to charge you with drunk driving even if they don’t have chemical evidence of the offense. Knowing the law and your rights can help you avoid making mistakes that hurt your legal case.