Rhode Island’s Implied Consent Laws and Refusing a Blood or Breath Alcohol Test

The requirement to submit to a BAC testing and the penalties of a refusal in Rhode Island.

At some point during a DWI investigation, the officer normally asks the driver to take a breath or blood alcohol test to determine the amount of alcohol or drugs in the driver’s system. The results of these tests which show the driver’s drug or blood alcohol concentration (BAC) are often used prove a DUI in court.

This article gives an overview of when Rhode Island law requires submission to DWI chemical testing and the consequences of an unlawful refusal.

Implied Consent

Rhode Island “implied consent law” specifies that any person who operates a vehicle within the state is deemed to have given his or her consent to chemical testing of bodily fluids and/or breath. If the officer has reasonable grounds to believe the driver is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, the driver is required by law to submit to any requested blood or breath test. The officer will notify the local court of any refusal so that the judge may immediately suspend the driver’s license and issue penalties as specified below.

Consequences of Refusal

Breath and urine tests. Drivers who refuse a lawfully requested breath or urine test must complete substance abuse treatment and pay $700 of highway assessment fines and chemical testing fees. Additional penalties are dependent on the driver’s number of prior test refusals in the last five years.

1st Refusal

2nd Refusal

3rd Refusal

Jail

None

Up to 6 months

Up to 1 year

Community Service

10 to 60 hours

60 to 100 hours

At least 100 hours

Fine

$200 to $500

$600 to $1,000

$800 to $1,000

License Suspension

6 months to 1 year

1 to 2 years

2 to 5 years

Blood tests. Generally, a refusal to submit to a lawfully requested blood test will result in similar penalties but cannot include jail time. Instead, the judge is permitted to issue an increased fine or license suspension.

Ignition interlock device (IID). On a refusal, the judge is permitted to order the installation of an ignition interlock device (IID) for a specific period of time and reduce the suspension period. If the driver is eligible, the suspension will be reduced accordingly:

  • 1st offense: 30-day license suspension and six-month to two-year IID.
  • 2nd offense: 60-day license suspension and one to four-year IID.
  • 3rd offense: 90-day suspension and two to ten-year IID.

Hardship license. If the driver admits guilt and shows “just cause” (a good reason), the judge can grant a temporary restricted license. This hardship license allows the driver to operate a vehicle for work, school, or treatment purposes. This license is effective during the suspension period and requires the use of an IID.

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