Rhode Island DUI/DWI Laws, Fines & Penalties

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Rhode Island defines drunk driving as driving a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent or above. Penalties for a driving under the influence (DUI) infraction include incarceration, a fine, substance abuse treatment, driver’s license revocation and installation of an ignition interlock device (IID). DUI can mean driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The punishments increase if a driver’s BAC is above 0.10 percent.

Penalties for a first offense DUI include: up to one year of incarceration; a fine between $100 and $300; 10 to 60 hours of public community restitution (community service); completion of a driver education course relating to alcohol and drugs; substance abuse treatment if recommended; and 30 to 180 days' driver’s license suspension.

First Rhode Island DUI

Penalties for a first offense DUI include: up to one year of incarceration; a fine between $100 and $300; 10 to 60 hours of public community restitution (community service); completion of a driver education course relating to alcohol and drugs; substance abuse treatment if recommended; and 30 to 180 days' driver’s license suspension according to Rhode Island General Laws Section 31-27-2 and Section 31-27-2.8. IID installation is not mandated by the statute, but the court can impose this requirement. License suspension may be reduced to a minimum of 30 days with an IID installation for between three months and one year.

If the individual was driving with a BAC between 0.10 and 0.149 percent, penalties rise to between three months to a one-year driver’s license suspension. IID installation is not mandated by statute, but a judge has the power to impose this requirement. If the individual had a BAC of 0.15 percent or above, penalties increase to between 20 to 60 hours of community service, between three months' and 18 months' driver’s license suspension and between three months and 18 months of IID installation. For a first DUI with a BAC of 0.15 percent or above, IID installation is mandatory.

Second Rhode Island DUI

Penalties for a second offense include: between 10 days and one year of incarceration, a fine of $400, substance abuse treatment, between one and two years of driver’s license suspension and one to two years of IID installation. These penalties are specific to the second DUI occurring within five years of the prior DUI. The individual is required to serve at least 48 hours of jail time consecutively. An individual can reduce their license suspension period to 45 days with an IID installation of between six months to two years.

If the driver had a BAC of 0.15 percent or above in the second DUI, penalties rise to between six months and one year of incarceration, a minimum fine of $1,000, substance abuse treatment, two years of driver’s license suspension and two years of IID installation. To clarify, only the BAC on the second DUI counts. If the driver’s BAC on the first DUI was between 0.08 and 0.10 percent, but their BAC on the second DUI was 0.15 percent or above, they will suffer the increased penalties.

Third Rhode Island DUI

Penalties for a third offense include: between one year and three years of incarceration; a fine of $400; substance abuse treatment; between two and three years' driver’s license suspension; and two years of IID installation. These penalties are specific to the third DUI occurring within five years of the prior DUI. The individual is required to serve 48 hours consecutively.

If the DUI offender had a BAC of 0.15 percent or above, the penalties rise to between three and five years of incarceration; a fine between $1,000 and $5,000; substance abuse treatment program; three years' driver’s license suspension; and three years of IID installation. An individual can see a license suspension reduced to a minimum of 60 days with an IID installation of between one and four years.

A three-time offender is also subject to having a vehicle that they own and operate seized and sold by the state. The seizure and sale is subject to the discretion of the sentencing judge. It is allowed for the count of prior DUI convictions to include out-of-state offenses for drunk driving.

Driving While Impaired for Underage Motorists

Under Rhode Island law, a driver between the ages of 18 and 20 is considered to be driving while impaired (DWI) if they had a BAC between 0.02 and 0.079 percent. If the individual was driving with a BAC of 0.08 percent or above, the state will charge them with a standard DUI. For a first offense of DWI, penalties include: a fine up to $250; 30 hours of community service; completion of a driver education course relating to alcohol and drugs; substance abuse treatment if recommended; and one to three months' driver’s license suspension.

For a second or subsequent offense, the fine is $250, and the individual must pay a highway safety assessment of $300. The driver must also perform up to 60 hours of community service, complete a driver education course relating to alcohol and drugs, complete substance abuse treatment and suffer three to six months' driver’s license suspension. The state will not shorten or suspend the penalties for a driving while impaired offense. The offense of driving while impaired is not considered a criminal offense.

Rhode Island Adult Drug Court

Rhode Island offers Adult Drug Court for individuals with addiction issues who have been charged with certain offenses, including DUI. A participant in Adult Drug Court must participate in substance abuse treatment, undergo random drug testing and perform community service as required. The charges will be placed on hold while they remain in the Adult Drug Court program. If they successfully complete the program, the court will dismiss the charge.

Deferred DUI Sentencing

Rhode Island allows deferred sentencing, according to Rhode Island General Laws Section 12-19-19. To be eligible for deferred sentencing, the individual must plead guilty or no contest. When a court defers a sentence, it may impose a sentence of up to five years from and after the date of the written deferral agreement. The exception is if the individual violates the terms and conditions of the agreement. In that circumstance, the court may impose a sentence.

If the individual successfully completes the deferment period and has complied with all its terms and conditions, they will become immediately eligible for consideration for expungement. Rhode Island has an Adult Diversion Unit that allows first-time nonviolent felony offenders to see dismissal of their felony charge. DUI is not typically a qualifying offense for the Adult Diversion Unit, according to the State of Rhode Island Adult Diversion Unit’s list of typically eligible offenses.

Hardship License to Drive

An individual with a first DUI conviction who has installed an IID may be eligible for a hardship license, according to the Rhode Island Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and Rhode Island General Laws Section 31-27-2.8. An individual with a second DUI conviction within 10 years of the initial offense or an individual with a prior alcohol-related offense or reckless driving is also eligible for a hardship license. A hardship license allows someone to drive to and from work, school, necessary medical appointments, job training and other court-approved hardships.

A hardship license is valid for only 12 hours per day. For drivers with a second DUI, a judge may impose a 90-day loss of license prior to the imposition of the hardship license. If the current case involves drunk driving with a BAC of 0.15 percent or above, the judge may impose a six-month loss of license before the imposition of the hardship license.

Refusal of a Chemical or Breath Test

When an individual refuses to submit to a chemical test, they will suffer approximately the same penalties as for a DUI charge, according to Rhode Island General Laws Section 31-27-2.1. For a first refusal, an individual will suffer a fine between $200 and $500; 10 to 60 hours of community service; a driver education course related to substance abuse; substance abuse treatment if recommended; and six months to one year of driver’s license suspension. Further, the court may prohibit the individual from operating a motor vehicle not equipped with an IID. An individual can see a reduction in license suspension to a minimum of 30 days if they install an IID for between six months and two years.

For a second test refusal within five years, the individual will suffer up to six months of incarceration, except if they refuse to submit to a blood test. Therefore, it is a greater concern if the individual refuses a test involving a breathalyzer, rather than a blood test. The individual will be required to pay a fine between $600 and $1,000, perform 60 to 100 hours community service, complete substance abuse treatment and suffer one to two years of driver’s license suspension. The court may prohibit the individual from operating a motor vehicle not equipped with an IID. A driver can see a reduction in license suspension to a minimum of 60 days if they install an IID for between one and four years.

For a third or subsequent test refusal within five years, an individual will suffer up to one year of incarceration, except if they refuse to submit to a blood test. The individual will be required to pay a fine between $800 and $1,000, perform not less than 100 hours community service, complete substance abuse treatment and suffer two to five years of driver’s license suspension. The court may prohibit them from operating a motor vehicle not equipped with an IID.

Read More​: What Is Suspicion of DUI?

Reduced License Suspension with IID Installation

An driver can see a reduction in license suspension to a minimum of 90 days if they install an IID for between two and 10 years. Before an individual with a third or subsequent violation within three years has their license reinstated, a hearing will be held. At the hearing, the court reviews the individual’s driving record, employment history, family background and other relevant factors that demonstrate behavior to warrant the reinstatement of their license.

Misdemeanor and Felony DUIs

In Rhode Island, a misdemeanor is an offense punishable by up to one year of incarceration and a fine of not more than $1,000. A felony is considered an offense punishable by more than one year of incarceration and a fine over $1,000, according to Rhode Island General Laws Section 11-1-2.

A first DUI and a second DUI are charged as misdemeanors. A third DUI within five years of a prior DUI is charged as a felony. A third DUI outside five years of a prior DUI is charged as a misdemeanor.

Habitual DUI Offenders

Rhode Island defines a habitual offender as an individual with three convictions for specified driving-related offenses within a three-year period, according to Rhode Island General Laws Section 31-40-2. DUI is one of the specified offenses for a habitual offender. The state will not issue a license to operate motor vehicles in Rhode Island to a habitual offender for a period between one and five years from the date of the order that finds the person to be a habitual offender. Alternatively, the individual may drive again when a court has restored the privilege to operate a motor vehicle in the state, according to Rhode Island General Laws Section 31-40-7.