You see it quite often in the news: “Driver charged with DWI and breath-test refusal.” But what is “breath-test refusal” and what does being charged with refusal really mean? On the face of it, it seems that some motorists arrested for driving under the influence simply decide not to let the police measure the percent of alcohol concentration in their bloodstream. Simple, right? Well, not that simple.
It certainly appears that refusing a breath test robs the police of what can be some relatively strong evidence. And one could say that this is a strategy many people adopt on the spot when arrested for driving while intoxicated. The trouble is, when the time comes to fight the inevitable DWI charges, the defendant now has at least two charges against him or her: the original drunk driving charge AND the breath-test (or blood-test) refusal charge.
As New Jersey DWI defense lawyers, I and my colleagues are asked by acquaintances and clients alike, “Is there any consequence to refusing a breathalyzer or blood test?” The answer is not what everyone may be hoping for, especially since there are no “Get Out of Jail Free” cards in the real world.