The Kugel Law Firm's Blog

Can I refuse to take a portable breath screening test in New Jersey?

Posted on August 10, 2023


A portable breath screening test is very different from the chemical test that you’re given at a police station after arrest. and it’s typically something that the officer carries with them and is given or offered at the roadside, as opposed to at a police station later. It’s a different type of chemical test that’s not covered by the refusal statute, so you can choose to refuse that test without any additional penalties.

If you have been pulled over and offered a portable breath screening test, a DUI lawyer can help you determine whether it’s in your best interest to refuse or take the breathalyzer test. At The Kugel Law Firm, our team of New Jersey DUI attorneys may be able to help you analyze the circumstances of your arrest and investigate any potential issues with the test or arrest procedure. This includes determining if the officer had probable cause to stop you and if the test was administered accurately. Call us at (973) 854-0098 to schedule a consultation.

What is a Portable Breath Test?

The portable breath test (PBT), commonly known as a breathalyzer, is administered on-site after a field sobriety test. Upon request, you’ll blow into the device, which assesses the presence of alcohol in your system. Although this test may produce rapid results, it is frequently unreliable and merely offers an initial assessment of your blood alcohol concentration (BAC). If the PBT indicates that your BAC exceeds the legal limit, it gives the police probable cause to arrest you. The results of the portable breath test cannot be utilized as evidence in court to demonstrate that you were driving while intoxicated. However, refusing to take the portable breath test can have consequences, including the suspension of your driver’s license, even if you are eventually not convicted of DUI.

A portable breath test can serve as a crucial tool in countering DUI charges but only with the help of a proficient New Jersey DUI lawyer. At The Kugel Law Firm, our lawyers have extensive knowledge of the intricacies of portable breath tests and how they can impact DUI charges. We can analyze the accuracy and reliability of these tests, identifying potential flaws and inconsistencies that may weaken the prosecution’s case. Let us help you navigate the complexities of DUI laws, ensuring your rights are protected and striving for the best possible outcome in your case. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help.

Difference Between Portable Breath Tests and Standardized Field Sobriety Tests In New Jersey

In New Jersey, there are two commonly used methods for determining whether a driver is under the influence of alcohol without a chemical test: Portable Breath Tests (PBTs) and Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFSTs). While both tests measure a driver’s level of intoxication, they are administered differently and serve different purposes. Knowing the differences between these two tests is critical when it comes to understanding penalties for DUI charges.

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Portable Breath Test

In New Jersey, police officers employ the use of a Portable Breath Test (PBT) to obtain a reading indicating the level of intoxication of a suspected drunk driver. However, the results obtained from PBTs cannot be used as evidence of intoxication in court trials. This is due to the fact that admitting PBTs as evidence have not been discussed in  a Frye hearing, which is a judicial proceeding where a judge determines whether a particular “scientific” evidence is generally accepted in the scientific community.

Because of this limitation, law enforcement officials seldom disclose PBT readings in their reports as evidence. Instead, they use the results as a guide to determine whether an individual should be charged with driving under the influence (DUI), particularly in situations where the suspect’s impairment appears to be borderline.

Standardized Field Sobriety Tests

The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) endorses the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFSTs), which are administered by police officers to measure impairment and correlate to a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of over .08%. The SFST consists of three parts: the horizontal gaze nystagmus, the one-leg stand, and the walk-and-turn. 

To ensure reliability, it’s crucial to understand that the components of the SFST must be administered consistently according to prescribed instructions. Trained officers are taught to identify specific indicators when evaluating a person’s test performance, and the tests themselves do not have a strict pass/fail outcome but rather “decision points” to assist officers in determining satisfactory performance. Refusing to take the SFSTs is not mandatory, much like the PBT, but a judge may interpret refusal as a sign of guilt.

Test Type Purpose of Test Admissibility as Evidence in Court
Portable Breath Test (PBT) Obtain a reading indicating intoxication level Not admissible as evidence in court trials
Standardized Field Sobriety Test (SFST) Measure impairment and correlate to BAC over .08% Admissible as evidence in court trials if administered correctly

Whether or not you accept to take a portable breath screening test during your traffic stop, an experienced New Jersey DUI attorney can assist you in building a tailored legal defense strategy against your charges. At The Kugel Law Firm, our DUI attorneys have dedicated their practice to providing quality legal counsel and representation to New Jersey residents charged with impaired driving offenses. Contact us today at (973) 854-0098 to schedule a free consultation.

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