Need to know Rhode Island DWI Laws



In the state of Rhode Island, driving while intoxicated, or DWI, charges may result if you are suspected of driving with your BAC, or blood alcohol content, at or over the .08 percent limit or if you are suspected to be driving while impaired due to drugs that can affect your driving ability.

Rhode Island DWI laws differ for those who are under the age of 21. If you are under the age of 21 and stopped on suspicion of DUI, you will probably be given a Breathalyzer test unless the presence of drugs rather than alcohol is suspected. If your blood alcohol content is at or greater than .02 percent, you may face DWI charges. Upon conviction, your license will be suspended for a period of six to 18 months if your BAC is below .09 percent. The judge could order fines or community service along with the suspension.

The limit for drivers over the age of 21 to receive a DUI is .08 percent, but if you are a commercial driver, then the limit is .04 percent. This would include transfer truck drivers and other drivers who might work for companies that require a CDL.

Rhode Island’s Implied Consent Law

Rhode Island DWI laws include an implied consent statute. If you are a resident of the state of Rhode Island, the law stipulates, you are agreeing to consent to a blood or breath test if an officer pulls you over and suspects that you have been driving under the influence of any kind of drug or alcohol. If you do not comply with taking a test in the field, then you may be subjected to fines and community service. You could also face automatic suspension of your license.

Felony DWI in Rhode Island

In the state of Rhode Island, most DWI convictions are considered misdemeanors for individuals over the age of 21. Upon receiving three convictions within a five-year period, however, it is possible for the charge to be upgraded to a felony, and other factors may be taken into account, such as one’s BAC at the time of the arrest.

Rhode Island’s “Look Back” Period

Some states, including Rhode Island, prescribe a fixed time period in which a court may take previous DWI convictions into account when weighing conviction penalties in any one case. According to Rhode Island DWI laws, that period is five years. Any violation occurring within that time period may carry higher penalties.

Recent Changes to Rhode Island DWI Laws

Until 2006, refusing a Breathalyzer test in Rhode Island only constituted a civil infraction for a first offense. For this reason, the state had the highest percentage in the nation of individuals refusing to submit to breath tests for more than a decade, according to NHTSA data. In July 2006, the state’s governor signed a bill that made a second or subsequent offense a criminal penalty punishable by time in jail, and fines, license suspension duration and community service hours were all substantially increased even for first-time offenders.

In June 2012, the state followed the lead of many other states in passing legislating mandatory installation of ignition interlock devices, or IIDs, for repeat offenders as well as those who have repeatedly violated the state’s implied consent laws.

What Is The Legal Alcohol Limit In Rhode Island?

In Rhode Island, motorists are subject to a legal alcohol limit of .08 percent, a level reflected in state laws throughout the U.S. A person found to have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) at or over this limit is typically arrested and charged with driving under the influence (DUI).

Some drivers are subject to stricter alcohol limits. Commercial vehicle operators, for example, can be cited with a BAC of .04 percent or higher. People under 21 typically face punishment upon registering a BAC reading of .02 percent or greater.

Penalties for a first-time DUI in Rhode Island could include:

  • A fine of between $100 and $400
  • Between 10 and 60 days of community service
  • Loss of license for between three months and one year
  • Required attendance at an alcohol education program

These are only some of the potential penalties that can apply to a person after a DUI conviction. The severity of punishments can vary depending on the perceived seriousness of an offense. For example, a conviction on aggravated charges – involving a BAC at or above .15 percent – can result in more jail time, higher fines and a longer license suspension.

Ignition Interlock Requirements In Rhode Island

Ignition interlock laws in Rhode Island, beginning in 2015, require people convicted of DUI to install a device if a BAC is .15 percent or greater following a DUI stop. Repeat offenders must also install an IID.

Conditions of the ignition interlock device (IID) include:

  • Device costs are the responsibility of the vehicle owner.
  • A device needs to be regular serviced and monitored by an authorized service provider.
  • Failed breath tests can justify additional penalties for a driver.

Installing an ignition interlock device is the only way for a person convicted of OUI to regain driving privileges. Most people install an IID, then, despite drawbacks.

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