You stop at the local bar for a couple of drinks after work. Meanwhile, you’re there a few minutes and only down a beer or two. You certainly don’t feel drunk. However, within seconds of leaving to head home, you hear sirens and flashing lights behind you. You panic. Although you were only stopped for speeding, the police officer mentions that she smells alcohol on your breath. When you are ultimately asked, you figure that refusing a breathalyzer test seems smart.
Only it’s a bad idea. Refusing a breathalyzer test when you’re sober can cause more trouble than you might imagine. Whether it’s your first DWI accusation or you’ve had a prior conviction, you won’t like what happens next. Bottom line, you should know what happens if you refuse a breathalyzer test.
New Jersey law is quite clear on the subject. According to NJSA 39:4-50.4A, refusal to submit to a breath test comes with some significant penalties. It’s not just that your license can be revoked. Additionally, it isn’t only that you could find yourself paying a ton of money for court costs, fines, and surcharges. In fact, there are further ramifications. These are especially relevant if you are considered a repeat offender under drunk driving laws.
New Court Case and Breathalyzer Refusal
Interestingly enough, a number of recent New Jersey court cases involve penalties associated with breath test refusals. Take, for example, State v. Bloodworth, which is an unpublished opinion written by the New Jersey Appellate Division. (The fact that it is unpublished means that it only applies to the named parties.)
When Bloodworth’s vehicle became lodged in a snowbank, she was unable to remove it. Witnesses called the local authorities to the scene and also reported that Bloodworth was slumped over the wheel. When the police arrived, they discovered an open bottle of liquor in the car. Fast forward ahead, Bloodworth was asked to submit to a field sobriety test. Bloodworth refused, saying she would only do so in the presence of her lawyer.
The police arrested Bloodworth and read her Miranda rights. She was subsequently asked to take a breath test. Bloodworth refused the breathalyzer and was later charged with driving while under the influence. She also received a citation for the open alcohol container and failure to show proof of insurance and motor vehicle registration.
Bloodworth was convicted of DWI, failure to submit to the breathalyzer, and possession of an open container. Notwithstanding, she appealed the judgment. One of the components of a DWI conviction is that there is proof that the driver was operating the vehicle while under the influence. Bloodworth disputed that there was credible evidence that she was operating or intended to operate a motor vehicle while intoxicated.
The court disagreed. The basis of the decision was categorized as observational evidence. In the first place, Bloodworth smelled like alcohol. She was pale and difficult to awaken. Additionally, Bloodworth had difficulty walking and had bloodshot eyes.
Upon reviewing the lower court’s decision, the Appellate Division found that Bloodworth’s attempt to dislodge the vehicle from the snowbank constituted an intent to operate the vehicle while intoxicated. Accordingly, the Appellate Division affirmed the prior decision.
Facing DWI or Breathalyzer Refusal Charges?
The Law Offices of Beninato & Matrafaljo has extensive experience representing those charged with DWI or breathalyzer refusal charges. Don’t take your chances and go without legal representation. Contact us to see how we can help.