Providence is known as the "Creative City." It marches to the beat of its own drum - and always enjoys a pint. Rhode Island was the only state not to ratify the 18th Amendment, which is the one that banned alcohol. To this day, the artistic souls in Providence enjoy a good drink, as evidenced by all the pubs downtown. However, all those creators should be careful before getting behind the wheel when going home, or they could find themselves facing DUI charges. This article has some useful information on what a DWI generally means for residents of Providence, RI.
First, it's best to be clear: driving while intoxicated is never advisable because it is very dangerous. More than one-third of fatal traffic accidents in Rhode Island involve a driver who is intoxicated. Any legal consequence of driving while under the influence of intoxicating drugs will pale in comparison to emotional and physical ramifications of ruining someone else's life.
What Is a Rhode Island DUI?
In Rhode Island, DUI stands for "Driving Under the Influence [of Liquor or Drugs]." You might have also seen the abbreviation DWI (Driving While Intoxicated), which most likely refers to similar crimes in other states. Someone is guilty of a DUI in Rhode Island when:
- she is in control of a vehicle, which includes bicycles;
- with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 or higher; or
- while under the influence of a chemical substance to the extent that she is incapable of safely operating a vehicle.
Notice that you could still be guilty of a DUI even if you used a substance other than alcohol. Whether you had a prescription or other right to use the substance does not matter. You could also be convicted of a DUI if your BAC is .08 or higher, regardless of whether your driving is actually impaired.
Providence DUI Stops
DUI stops in Providence work much the same as DUI stops around the state. First, the police officer may observe that a someone is driving erratically. Once stopped, the officer can question the driver, ask the driver to perform field sobriety tests, and/or administer a breathalyzer test. Rhode Island drivers must submit to chemical drug testing under the state's implied consent laws, which say that drivers consent to drug tests when they obtain their driver's license. Refusal to submit to chemical blood tests is its own crime -- an infraction -- which amounts to one expensive traffic ticket.
Many states also allow the police to set up checkpoints, during which police question the driver of every car that goes past a roadblock. These checkpoints are not legal in Rhode Island, but Providence drivers should still watch out for roadblocks if they travel to any other New England states.
Providence DUI Process
The police officer will then take the driver to the local jail for booking. He will then be released on bail, or a promise to return to court in exchange for money. The case will proceed to an arraignment, where the driver will plead guilty, not guilty, or no contest. If the driver pleads not guilty, the facts will be examined in a criminal trial; otherwise, the case will proceed straight to sentencing. Criminal procedures, like DUI trials, are held in the Providence-Bristol Superior Court.
Providence DUI Consequences
The consequences for a DUI vary depending on how many prior convictions a driver has within the past 10 years. In general, the penalties can fines, incarceration, and community service, and get more serious with each subsequent offense. If you happen to have more than one conviction within the past 5 or 10 years, the penalties escalate faster. Penalties can double if there was a child in the vehicle, or if the driver's BAC was .15 or higher.
Some states have diversion programs that allow drivers facing their first DUI conviction to attend classes on substance abuse and fulfill other requirements in exchange for dismissal of their case. Not so in Rhode Island. First time offenders may have to take a class on substance abuse, but it will not help reduce their punishment. Because the penalties for DUI's are steep, an individual facing charges may want to consider consulting a local DUI attorney.
For more general information, see FindLaw's sections on DUI/DWI or consider speaking with a Providence attorney specializing in DUI cases.