Rhode Island OUI: Refusal to Take a Blood, Breath, or Urine Test

In Rhode Island, if you get pulled over for an OUI (operating under the influence) and the officer asks you to take a blood, breath, or urine test, do you have to take one? What happens if you refuse?

Implied Consent

Rhode Island law requires you to take up to two blood, breath, or urine tests if you are arrested for an OUI. Rhode Island’s “implied consent” law says that if you are lawfully arrested by an officer who has probable cause to believe that you have been operating under the influence, then you consent to taking one or two chemical tests of your blood, breath, or urine for the purpose of determining your blood alcohol content (BAC). The test or tests must be taken as soon as possible from when you were last driving and the officer gets to choose which ones you take.

If you have a medical or religious reason that prevents you from taking a blood test, then you need to plan ahead. First, you must file an affidavit, explaining why you can’t take the test, with Rhode Island’s division of motor vehicles. Then, this agency will put a notation on your license that will let an arresting officer know that you do not have to take a blood test. This does not excuse you from the other tests, however.

Refusing to Take the Test

1st Offense

2d Offense

3rd Offense

Refusal to take test

6 month license suspension, 10-60 hours community service, $200-$500 fine

1 year license suspension, 60-100 hours community service, $600-$1,000 fine, possibly jail

2-5 year license suspension, 100 hours community service, $800-$1,000 fine, possibly jail

Once you are arrested, the officer has to tell you about your right to a doctor’s examination. You have the right to see a doctor of your choice immediately after your arrest. If you want to see your doctor, then the officer has to give you a reasonable chance to do so. You may have additional chemical tests of your blood, breath, or urine taken by your doctor, too, but only if you agree to take the officer’s tests.

The officer should also tell you the penalties for refusing a chemical test. For your first refusal, your license will be suspended from six months to one year and you will have to pay a fine from $200 to $500. Additionally, you will be have to do 10 to 60 hours of community service and will need to attend a course on driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. For your second refusal within five years, you will go to jail for as long as six months and you will owe a fine from $600 to $1,000. You will also lose your license for two years and have to attend a drug or alcohol treatment program. For your third or subsequent refusal within five years, the penalty jumps to up to one year in jail and a fine from $800 to $1,000. You will lose your license for two to five years and have to do 100 hours of community service. You will have to attend a drug or alcohol treatment program, too. Whether this is your first or your final refusal, you have to pay two additional fines – one for $500 to the state’s general fund, and one for $200 to pay for the chemical tests.

When you do refuse, the officer cannot make you take a test. He or she will make a report to the division of motor vehicles, explaining the reason for your arrest and that you refused a test. Based on the report, the state will then send you a notice of your suspension, which will give you five days to give up your license and 15 days to request a hearing to challenge the suspension.

At the hearing, you will have the chance to prove that the officer did not have a reasonable belief to arrest you, or that the officer failed to offer you a test, explain your right to a doctor, or mention the penalties. You could also try to show that you actually did not refuse the test. If you can convince the court on any of those points, then any consequence of the refusal will be reversed. You may, however, still be on the hook for an OUI.

Should You Refuse to Take a Mandatory OUI Test in Rhode Island?

It usually does not help you to refuse to take a blood, breath, or urine test when you are arrested. For a first OUI in Rhode Island, your license could be suspended up to 180 days, you will have to pay a fine up to $300, you must do community service, and you could go to jail for 10 days. Altogether, this is about the same as the penalty for refusal. Still, refusing the test does not guarantee that you won’t be convicted – you could be found guilty of an OUI even if your refusal means that the state does not have proof that your BAC was over.08%, the legal limit for those over 21. In fact, the prosecution can use your refusal against you by arguing that you refused the test because you knew that you were intoxicated and guilty of OUI.

Get Help With Your OUI

If you have been arrested on an OUI charge in Rhode Island or any other state, get help from an experienced OUI attorney. Unlike other traffic related charges, which might be worth fighting without a lawyer, conviction for an OUI has serious consequences – especially if the incident involved injury to people or property, or if it’s your second or subsequent OUI. To avoid or reduce the consequences, your best bet is to find an attorney who is knowledgeable about your state’s laws and about how the system works in your county’s court.

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