In Rhode Island, driving while intoxicated (also called "driving under the influence" (DUI)) carries serious consequences. The severity of these consequences depends in large part on how many prior convictions the driver has.
This article gives an overview of Rhode Island's DWI laws and the penalties you'll face for a first, second, and third conviction.
In Rhode Island, you can be convicted of a DWI/DUI for operating a vehicle under any of the following conditions:
The prohibition against driving with a BAC of .08% or more is known as a "per se DUI." A person can be convicted of a per se offense based solely on his or her BAC, regardless of actual impairment. The volume of alcohol necessary to reach these BAC levels can differ depending on the person's gender and body size and the type of alcohol consumed.
The penalties for a DUI conviction mostly depend on the number of prior convictions that occurred within the past five years, the driver's BAC, the driver's level of impairment, and whether the offense involved drugs.
For a first offense involving a BAC of at least .08% but less than .15% or "any amount" of a controlled substance (without proof of actual impairment), the penalties include:
But for offenses involving a BAC of at least .15% or drug impairment, though the jail time is the same, the fine is $500 and the license suspension period will be three to 18 months.
For a second offense involving a BAC of at least .08% but less than .15% or "any amount" of a controlled substance (without proof of actual impairment), the penalties include:
But for offenses involving a BAC of at least .15% or drug impairment, the jail time is six to 12 months, the fine is at least $1,000, and the license suspension period will be two years.
A third DWI conviction is a felony in Rhode Island. The penalties for a conviction include:
But for offenses involving a BAC of at least .15% or drug impairment, the jail time is three to five years, the fine is at least $1,000 to $5,000, and the license suspension period will be three years.
All persons convicted of a DWI must attend a court-approved DWI class and/or treatment program and pay a $500 highway safety assessment fee.
Along with the listed driver's license suspension periods, the judge is also authorized to order an ignition interlock device (IID) for eligible drivers. The installation of the IID can greatly reduce the suspension period.
For a first-offense DWI, the judge is permitted to issue the driver a hardship license. The driver must plead guilty to the DWI and show hardship (a good reason) but can receive a temporary license that allows the driver to operate a vehicle for work, school, or treatment purposes. The license is effective during the suspension period and requires the use of an IID.
While DWI laws apply to everyone, drivers under 21 years old can be convicted of a different underage violation if they are driving with a BAC of at least .02% but less than .08%. Underage drivers who are convicted of this offense will face:
But, again, underage drivers can also be convicted of a normal DWI if they're caught driving with a BAC of .08% or more or while under the influence.
If you've been arrested for driving while intoxicated, you should get in contact with a qualified DWI lawyer. The consequences of a DWI are serious, so having legal assistance is imperative.