When someone is arrested for drunk driving here in New Jersey, they are required to give two breath samples upon arrest and transportation to the station. You cannot refuse to do so without a lawyer present, and you cannot refuse on fifth amendment grounds. Refusal to do so can result in serious charges in addition to a DUI. However, if you do not speak English well, or at all, there may be a defense if you refuse.

Police Must Read a Standard Request for Breath Sample

At some point after arriving at the station, a police officer will read to you from a standard statement (usually in English). If you refuse, or give a non-committal or vague answer, they will read a second section. If you do not clearly state that you will give a breath sample at that point, you will be charged with a refusal.

The question becomes, what if you didn't respond because your English wasn't good enough to understand what they were saying to you? Fortunately, this can be raised as a defense!

Not Understanding the Request is a Defense!

On July 12, 2010, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that a person who has been arrested for drunk driving has the right to be informed of the obligation to submit to a breath test in the language he or she speaks. The Attorney General and the Motor Vehicle Commission were tasked with providing a means of having the warning language available in a wide variety of foreign languages spoken in New Jersey. 

The key thing to bear in mind is that if your English is not that strong, and you do not understand the often convoluted text of the standard warning police are required to read to those arrested for DWI, speak up. They are now under a duty to make sure you understand.  Tell them what your native language is and wait until they are able to provide you with either some one who can translate it for you verbally, or give you the text written in that language.  It's the law!

Have You Already Been Charged with a Refusal?

If you have already been charged with a refusal, and it was because you didn't understand the police officer when he or she read you the statement, then you need a lawyer to represent you and present that defense! 

If you have been charged with drunk driving and refusal in Burlington, Camden, Gloucester, Salem or Cumberland County, please feel free to call me at 856-432-4113 or contact me through this site to schedule a free consultation.

If you are looking for more information on New Jersey's drunk driving law, then download my free book, How Much Trouble Am I In? A Guide to New Jersey Drunk Driving Law.

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Steven J. Richardson
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Bankruptcy, Collections, Student Loan, DUI and Traffic Court attorney in Woodbury, NJ.