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Rhode Island DUI Laws

Drinking and driving is never a good idea. It puts other drivers and pedestrians at risk, in addition to gambling with your own life.

Drugged and drunk driving is a public health concern. States enact laws with heavier penalties to combat the problem and protect the public. They're also incorporating treatment and education into DUI penalties. Rhode Island has some tough laws when it comes to drinking alcohol and taking illegal substances before operating a motor vehicle.

If you are facing a driving under the influence (DUI) charge in Rhode Island, here's an overview of important information to consider.

Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) Limits and Implied Consent

"Per Se" BAC Limit 0.08%
Zero Tolerance (Underage) BAC Limit 0.02%
Enhanced Penalty (Aggravated) BAC Limit 0.15%
Implied Consent to Submit to BAC Test? Yes

Select Penalties

Minimum License Suspension or Revocation (1st, 2nd, 3rd offense) 2-18 months, 1- 2 years, 2 year minimum
Mandatory Alcohol Education, or Assessment and Treatment Both
Vehicle Confiscation Possible? Yes (3rd aggravated offense)
Ignition Interlock Device Possible? Yes

Disclaimer: State laws are subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Rhode Island DUI Law

The state of Rhode Island prohibits anyone from driving or otherwise operating a vehicle when under the influence of:

  • Intoxicating liquor or alcohol
  • Drugs
  • Toluene
  • Controlled substances
  • A combination of these

Rhode Island defines being under the influence as an impairment to the point that you are unable to operate your vehicle safely. A police officer will also arrest you if your blood alcohol content (BAC) is 0.08% or more. An officer can arrest you if you are below the legal BAC limit if you show evidence of impairment.

Per Se DUI Offense

per se DUI offense sets a standard BAC legal limit. This is 0.08% in Rhode Island if you are 21 or older. The legal limit is 0.04% if you operate a commercial vehicle.

If your BAC is at or above the legal per se limit, law enforcement does not need additional evidence of impairment. They only need to show that your BAC is 0.08% or greater through chemical tests. You may not feel intoxicated or show symptoms of impairment to face a DUI arrest at this legal limit.

Implied Consent

When a law enforcement officer suspects you are driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, they ask you to submit to a preliminary breath test or Breathalyzer. A Breathalyzer measures your breath alcohol level. The officer may ask you to perform a series of field sobriety tests (FST). FSTs check for intoxication. An officer can arrest you based on these test results.

After arrest, the police officer will ask you to submit to chemical tests. Chemical tests include a blood test, evidentiary breath test, or urine and saliva analysis. These tests will establish your BAC and look for illegal substances.

As part of your driving privilege, you have consented to chemical testing when an officer suspects you are DUI. This is called an implied consent law.

You may refuse all these tests, but there are penalties. Refusal will not prevent your arrest.

Refusing a preliminary breath test will result in a fine. Refusing field sobriety tests will lead to your arrest if the officer has probable cause.

Refusing chemical tests after your arrest is a more serious offense. For a first-time test refusal, you will receive:

  • Driver's license suspension for six to 12 months
  • Between $200 and $500 fine
  • 10-60 hours of community service
  • $200 Department of Health fee
  • Complete a special course on DUIs or substance abuse treatment

These penalties are separate from any DUI charge you receive. The punishments stand regardless of the outcome of your criminal case.

Penalties Upon DUI Conviction

Several serious penalties await you if convicted of a DUI. The sentencing judge will look at your blood alcohol level (BAC) and other circumstances in determining your punishment.

A first-offense DUI is a misdemeanor charge. If convicted of having a BAC between 0.08% to under 0.10% or of having an intoxicating substance in your blood, a judge may sentence you to:

  • Fines of $100 to $300
  • Highway assessment fee of $500
  • Perform 10 to 60 hours of community service
  • Up to one year of jail time
  • Complete a special course on DUI
  • Driver's license suspension for 30 to 180 days
  • Installation of an ignition interlock device possible

Your fine increases to $400 if you have a BAC of 0.10% to under 0.15%, and your license suspension is for 12 months. If your BAC is 0.15% or more, you're fined $500, and your license suspension period increases to 18 months.

For a second offense within five years, with a BAC of 0.08% to under 0.15% or had illegal substances in your blood, a judge can sentence you to:

  • $400 fine
  • Highway assessment fee of $500
  • Minimum 10 days in jail, with one year possible
  • Substance abuse assessment
  • Drug and alcohol treatment
  • Driver's license suspension for one to two years
  • Ignition interlock device required for one to two years

If your BAC is 0.15%, you will serve a mandatory minimum of six months in jail and a fine of $1,000, and your license suspension is for two years after you complete your incarceration.

A third offense or subsequent violation within five years is a felony charge. If you have illegal substances in your blood, or your BAC was 0.08% to under 0.15%, a judge may sentence you to:

  • $400 fine
  • Highway safety assessment fee of $500
  • Minimum of one year in jail, with up to three years possible
  • License suspension for two to three years after incarceration
  • Substance abuse assessment and treatment program
  • Mandatory ignition interlock device for two-year

If your BAC is 0.15% or greater for your third offense, your sentence will include a fine of up to $5,000, three to five years in jail, and a three-year license suspension.

Hardship License and Ignition Interlock Device

After serving a license suspension period, the court may grant you a hardship license. A hardship license allows you to drive during a specified 12-hour period so you may work, attend school, have medical appointments, or go for treatment. The court may deny you a hardship license if you have multiple drug and alcohol-related charges within the last 10 years.

A requirement of the hardship license is the installation of an ignition interlock device. An ignition interlock device (IID) is a breath alcohol testing device installed into your vehicle's ignition system. You must provide a breath sample before you can start your vehicle. If the device measures a detectable amount of alcohol in your system, the vehicle will not drive. The IID will prompt you to submit additional tests during your trip to ensure you remain sober.

Rhode Island Zero Tolerance Laws

Rhode Island has a zero-tolerance law for underage intoxicated driving. A police officer can charge you with driving while intoxicated (DWI) if you are under the age of 21 and have a BAC of 0.02% or more. It takes a minimal amount of alcohol to reach this BAC.

Conviction for a first-offense DWI carries the following penalties:

  • $250 fine
  • 30 hours of community service
  • Minimum three-month driver's license suspension
  • DWI education course
  • Substance abuse treatment, as needed

A second offense will increase your penalties:

  • $250 fine
  • $300 highway safety assessment fee
  • 60 hours of community service
  • Three to six-month license suspension
  • DWI education course
  • Substance abuse treatment

You may face adult penalties if your BAC is 0.08% or greater.

Rhode Island DWI Resources:

Get Professional Legal Help With Your DUI: Contact an Attorney

If you are facing a DUI or DWI, you may feel overwhelmed. A DUI conviction will follow you for years. It can impact your employment eligibility, education, and even housing choices. An experienced DUI lawyer can evaluate your case and provide useful legal advice. Get started today and contact a Rhode Island DWI attorney near you.

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