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Rhode Island DUI Laws

Driving under the influence of liquor and/or drugs may be a misdemeanor or a felony. When 1) driving or operating a vehicle 2) while under the influence of intoxicating liquor, toluene, or any controlled substance (“influence of alcohol and/or drugs”), 3) with a blood alcohol concentration (“BAC”) 0.08% or more or the presence of drugs in the blood, then he is guilty of a misdemeanor. It is a felony if, 1) within a 5 year period, 2) the individual has been convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, 3) and BAC is 0.08% or more, BAC is unknown, or there is presence of drugs in the blood, 4) for three or more times. It is also a felony when the individual is convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs while his driving license has been suspended, revoked, or cancelled for driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.

Other motor vehicle offenses related to driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, according to Rhode Island, are driving while impaired, refusals to submit to chemical test, refusal to submit to preliminary breath test, driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs resulting in death, and driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, resulting in serious bodily injury.

Driving while impaired applies to those who are 1) between 18 and 21 years of age, 2) took a test at the request of a law enforcement officer, and 3) the test determines that BAC is between 0.02 and 0.1 percent. DWI is not considered a criminal offense.

Refusal to submit to a chemical test is when a person refuses to comply with the requests of an officer to submit to tests after the officer had reasonable belief that the individual had been driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, informed the individual his or her rights, and also notified the individual the penalties that were to follow after his or her refusal to submit to test. A chemical test refers to any test of a sample of blood, breath, or urine for the purpose of determining the presence of alcohol in the body.

An officer may request a preliminary breath test to determine BAC if he reasonably believes the individual had been driving or is in actual physical control of the vehicle while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.

When a person driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs is the proximate cause of the death of an individual, who is not the driver, the intoxicated driver is guilty of driving under the influence of liquor or drugs, resulting in death. In other words, the driver must have been legally intoxicated with alcohol and/or drugs, and the death must have occurred due to the individual’s manner of operating the vehicle, so it is not necessary to prove that the individual’s conduct rose to criminal negligence or recklessness. The punishment under this provision is divided into two categories. First, if the person is convicted for the first time, then he or she will be imprisoned in state prison for 5 to 15 years in any adult correctional institutions based on the judge’s discretion, with a fine of $5,000 to $10,000, and his or her license will be revoked for 5 years. The license will not be reinstated to the individual until there is showing that there are no further reasons to refuse the person his or her license, and the person demonstrates good financial standing. However, in some cases, the individual may be required to receive alcohol or drug treatment, at his or her expense, before the person is allowed to renew his or her license. Second, a person convicted for the second time within a 5 year period, taking into consideration previous out-of-state convictions that are convictions based on the same BAC levels as the DUI laws in Rhode Island, will be imprisoned in state prison for 10 to 20 years, in any adult correctional institutions based on the judge’s discretion, with a fine of $10,000 to $20,000, and his or her license will be revoked for 5 years. The license will not be reinstated to the individual until there are no further reasons to refuse the person his or her license, and the person demonstrates good financial standing. However, in some cases, the individual may be required to receive alcohol or drug treatment, at his or her expense, before the person is allowed to renew his or her license.

When a person driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs is the cause of a serious bodily injury of another individual, not the driver, then the driver is guilty of driving under the influence of liquor or drugs, resulting in serious bodily injury. In other words, the individual must have been legally intoxicated with alcohol and/or drugs, and the death must have occurred due to the individual’s manner of operating the vehicle, so it is not necessary to prove that the individual’s conduct rose to criminal negligence or recklessness. A serious bodily injury is when the driver creates a substantial risk of death, a serious physical disfigurement, or a loss or impairment of the function of any body part or organ. The punishment under this provision is divided into two categories. First, if the person is convicted for the first time, then he or she will be imprisoned for 1 to 10 years to any adult correctional institutions, with a fine of $1,000 to $5,000, and the license may be revoked for a maximum of 2 years. The license will not be reinstated to the individual until there is showing that there are no grounds to refuse the issuance of the license and the person must prove good financial standing; in some cases, the individual may be required to receive alcohol or drug treatment, at his or her expense, before the person is allowed to renew his or her license. Second, if the person is convicted for the second time within a 5 year period, he or she will be imprisoned for 2 to 15 years at any adult correctional institutions, with a fine of $3,000 to $10,000, and the license may be revoked for a maximum of 4 years. The license will not be reinstated to the individual until there is showing that there are no grounds to refuse the issuance of the license and the person must prove good financial standing; in some cases, the individual may be required to receive alcohol or drug treatment, at his or her expense, before the person is allowed to renew his or her license.


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