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In 2015, two New Jersey state troopers arrested Rebecca Musarra for refusing to answer their questions during a traffic stop. Apparently, upon being stopped for allegedly speeding, Musarra provided the officers with her license, registration, and insurance information, but then proceeded to remain completely silent as the troopers questioned her. The two troopers, Matthew Stazzone and Demetric Gosa, grew increasingly frustrated with Musarra's silence, and Trooper Stazzone then told Musarra that she was "going to be placed under arrest if you don't answer my questions."

Rebecca Musarra, a Philadelphia attorney, finally broke her silence as the police ordered her out of the vehicle, and placed her under arrest. She asked, "Are you detaining me because I refused to speak?", at which point the troopers responded "Yeah, obstruction."

In an ironic moment, the troopers then read Musarra her Miranda rights, which include "the right to remain silent". Musarra was then taken to the police station, detained, and questioned. Later, a supervisor intervened, and told Musarra that the troopers had made a "rookie" mistake, that she was free to go, and that he would do her a "favor" and try to get her car released from impound without any fees.

Musarra proceeded to file a civil lawsuit against the police department, and according to a report by NJ Civil Settlements released on Wednesday, August 23rd, the state has agreed to settle for $30,000. While any time a business or entity settles a civil lawsuit outside of a court judgement it is not considered an admission of guilt or wrongdoing, this settlement certainly informs us as to our civil liberties and rights when it comes to police stops, and our constitutional protections from self-incrimination.

To view a video recording of Musarra's arrest, you can view the link here.

What Are My Rights When Stopped by the Police in NJ?

Morris County DUI/DWI Attorney

While motorists should usually follow police orders during traffic stops, they are under no legal obligation to answer any questions. However, one of the most common questions our Morris County DUI attorneys are asked is "Do I have the right to refuse to submit to a breath test?"

When it comes to DUI/DWI arrests in New Jersey, there are several important things to understand. First, any driver can be arrest for driving under the influence if the police believe they have sufficient probable cause to make the arrest. This probable cause can be anything from a failed sobriety test, refusal to submit to a sobriety test, behavior such as slurred speech, or alcoholic odors emanating from the car. While your Morris County DUI attorney can contest this probable cause in court, and potentially have your DUI charges dismissed should they the arresting officer's probable cause lacking, the police can make the initial DUI arrest with sufficient probable cause.

The second important thing to understand is that, upon being arrested for a suspected DUI, police will usually administer a breath test. Any driver can refuse to submit to a breath test, however when obtaining a New Jersey driver's license, drivers all give "implied consent" to breath tests, meaning any driver who refuses to submit to a breath test can be arrested and charged with the highest possible degree of driving under the influence. Finally, while police can request and administer breath tests without court ordered warrants, they cannot administer a blood test without a judge's written approval.

So while you certainly have the constitutional right to not answer any questions the police ask of you, refusing to submit to a breath test will most likely result in a DUI arrest. Additionally, it is often much easier for your Morris County DUI attorney to defend a DUI/DWI arrest in situations where you do in fact take a breath test (even if you fail), than in situations where you refused such a test. Many times, police instruments are improperly calibrated, maintained, and the test itself is improperly administered, but if you refuse to submit to the breath test, none of these defenses can be used in your case.

Contact Our Morristown Driving Under the Influence Attorneys Today

At The Law Office of Smith & Doran, our attorneys have extensive experience defending clients across Parsippany, Randolph, Roxbury, Florham Park, Morristown, and the greater Morris County area from illegal arrests, improperly administered sobriety tests and breath tests, and criminal and DUI/DWI charges of all kinds.

Ensuring that your legal and constitutional rights are respected and observed by the police often requires experienced legal counsel. When this becomes necessary, the highly experienced and effective legal team of Smith and Doran is ready to help you do exactly that, and help you protect your financial obligations, personal freedom, and driving privileges in any Driving Under the Influence matter.

To speak with our firm today in a free and confidential consultation regarding your DUI charges, and your options for legal defense moving forward, please contact us online, or through our Morristown, NJ office at 973-532-2661.

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Smith & Gaynor, LLC
60 Washington Street, Suite 302
Morristown, NJ 07960

Phone: 973-532-2661
Fax: 973-292-9168
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