Rhode Island Drunk Driving Laws and Penalties

Learn about the penalties for a first, second, and third DWI conviction in Rhode Island.

In Rhode Island you can be convicted of a DWI (driving while intoxicated) for operating a vehicle under any of the following conditions:

  • with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08% or greater (.04% or more if the driver was operating a commercial vehicle)
  • while “under the influence” of any alcohol, drug, or controlled substance, or
  • with any amount of a scheduled controlled substance (illegal drugs) in your blood.

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, body size and the type of alcohol. Using our BAC calculator and BAC table can give you an estimate of where your BAC might be at after a certain number of drinks.

Rhode Island DWI Penalties

The judge decides the specific penalties for a DWI conviction. The judge normally considers factors such as the circumstances of the incident and the driver’s criminal history. However, the judge is restricted to certain parameters established by statute. Rhode Island differentiates DWI convictions based upon the number of prior DWI convictions within the last five years, the driver’s BAC, the driver’s level of impairment, and whether the offense involved drugs.

BAC of .08% or more or more or “any amount” of a controlled substance. The following table outlines the penalties for per se DWIs and drivers who had any amount of controlled substance in their blood.

1st Offense

2nd Offense

3rd Offense

Jail

Up to 1 year

10 days to 1 year

1 to 3 years

Fines

$100 to $400

$400

$400

License Suspension

30 days to 12 months

1 to 2 years

2 to 3 years

BAC of .15% or more or drugged driving. Rhode Island has created separate, harsher punishments for drivers who had a BAC of .15% or greater or who were found to be under the influence of (impaired by) a controlled substance.

1st Offense

2nd Offense

3rd Offense

Jail

Up to 1 year

6 to 12 months

3 to 5 years

Fines

$500

At least $1,000

$1,000 to $5,000

License Suspension

3 to 18 months

2 years

3 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.

Driver’s License Penalties

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.

  • First offense. Three-month to one-year IID, minimum 30-day suspension.
  • Second offense. Six-month to two-year IID, minimum 45-day suspension.
  • Third offense. One to four-year IID, minimum 60-day suspension.

Hardship license. 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.

Under 21 DWI

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:

  • First offense. Up to a $250 fine, 30 hours of community service, and a one to three-month license suspension. The judge will also order a DWI class or treatment.
  • Second offense. Up to a $250 fine, $300 highway assessment fee, 60 hours of community service, a three to six-month suspension, DWI class, and treatment.

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