If a law enforcement officer pulls you over and you know that there is a risk that you’ve had more to drink than you should, you may be thinking “I’ll just stay silent.” While it is true that the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects individuals who have been arrested from answering questions without an attorney present, this doesn’t mean that you can simply ignore an arresting officer’s orders without potentially incurring consequences.
One of the primary challenges of being pulled over for drunk driving is that it isn’t always clear which requests you can refuse and which ones you can’t refuse without consequences. A good rule of thumb to remember is that you can refuse a field sobriety test (“Recite the ABCs backward”) and a pocket breathalyzer before you’ve been arrested.
On the other hand, you can’t refuse a blood or breath alcohol concentration (BAC) test without incurring significant automatic penalties. This is because BAC refusal upon arrest is a violation of New Jersey’s implied consent laws.
Making an informed decision
Submitting to a breath or blood test in the wake of being accused of impaired driving can be frightening. You may either know that you’re intoxicated or you may be concerned that a false positive could leave you vulnerable to charges of criminal wrongdoing that you didn’t commit. Either way, it is important to face that fear and remember that if you refuse, you’ll face significantly negative consequences without fail.
If, however, you submit to a breath or blood test and the results aren’t in your favor, you’ll still be able to fight the validity of the test and any charges that may be filed against you. It is the “certainty vs. possibility” of a negative outcome that makes it a far better idea to take the test and then explore your legal options accordingly.