Most people are aware that if they are stopped by law enforcement and there is reasonable suspicion that they are driving while intoxicated, the driver is required to provide a sample to determine if they are under the influence, but a sample of what? The law varies from state to state. For instance:
The Implied Consent Law in New Jersey is different than that of Rhode Island. In Rhode Island, Implied Consent means that any person who drives a motor vehicle in Rhode Island has given consent to Chemical Test (Breath-Blood-Urine – arresting officers choice apparently) to determine the amount of alcohol/drugs, if any, in your system after you have been arrested for suspected driving while intoxicated (DWI). Refusing to provide that sample is an additional charge carrying additional license suspensions and fines. (source – RI DMV website)
The New Jersey Implied Consent Law that states that all persons operating a motor vehicle on New Jersey roadways has agreed to submit to a Breath Test following an arrest for suspected drinking and driving. In addition to the original underlying penalties of the driving while intoxicated offense, failing to provide a breath sample will result in an additional charge carrying an additional period of suspension and other penalties.
However, New Jersey’s implied consent law does not currently mandate that you submit to a blood test or urine test. If taken to the hospital as a result of an investigation, such as an accident, you most likely did not perform standardized field sobriety tests. If you are suspected of being under the influence of an alcohol or drug, you will be asked for your consent to voluntarily provide a sample of your blood or urine to test. This is because although the breath test machine used in New Jersey, the Alcotest 7110c, is designed to be mobile and transportable to the scene or hospital, it is not the practice in New Jersey. So to gather evidence of intoxication to be used against you, your blood or urine will be required.
If you believe you have alcohol or drugs in your system, or if you just do not want to, you should refuse to voluntarily give consent for the collection of your blood or urine. If a DWI charge is to be pursued against you, a judge would have to issue a warrant (Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures – barring exigent circumstances) for non-consensual blood testing to collect a sample. However, if a warrant is obtained, you are legally required to provide the type of sample described in the warrant and reasonable force may be used to collect that sample if necessary. Refusing to provide a sample after a warrant is issued will result in an additional charge(s) carrying additional license suspensions and penalties, which may also expose you to potential criminal charges.
So, according to the Rhode Island Division of Motor Vehicle website, a New Jersey resident on vacation, visiting a relative or just driving through Rhode Island that is stopped for a suspected DWI is required to submit to chemical testing. Chemical testing of your breath, blood or urine, without the need of a warrant, even though as a New Jersey license holder, your implied consent requirements are for only breath samples.
* Disclaimer – Edward Janzekovich is a licensed attorney in the State of New Jersey and not in Rhode Island. The information provided is to contrast implied consent laws between NJ and RI. Information is obtained directly from the Rhode Island DMV website and this is not to be interpreted as providing Rhode Island legal advice.