Rhode Island's Drugged Driving Laws

How drug use can result in a DWI charge in Rhode Island and the penalties that result from a conviction.

Rhode Island not only prohibits drunk driving but also driving under the influence of drugs (DWI) of drugs. The penalties for a drug DWI are generally the same as those for an alcohol-related offense.

This article discusses how Rhode Island defines drugged driving and the consequences of a violation.

Drugged Driving Defined

A Rhode Island motorist can be convicted of a drug DWI for operating a vehicle while under the influence of any drug, toluene, or controlled substance or with any amount of a controlled substance in his or her system.

For purposes of the state's DWI laws, under the influence means being impaired to an extent that the driver is incapable of safely operating a vehicle.

Having a valid prescription for the drug you ingested isn't a legal defense to a DWI charge.

Drugged Driving Penalties

The consequences of a Rhode Island drugged driving conviction depend on the circumstances. But generally, a DWI carries the following possible penalties:

  • First offense. A first DWI conviction generally carries a fine of $100 to $500 ($300 is the maximum if the DWI is based on the presence of a controlled substance rather than being under the influence), ten to 60 hours of community service, and up to a year in jail. And for DWIs based on actual impairment (as opposed to the presence of a controlled substance), there's a three- to 12-month license suspension. The judge can also require the convicted motorist to install an ignition interlock device (IID) in his or her vehicle.
  • Second offense. For a second DWI within five years, an offender who's convicted based on the presence of a controlled substance in his or her system is generally looking at a $400 fine, a license suspension of one to two years, and ten days to one year in jail. And for a second offense based on actual impairment, there's a fine of at least $1,000, a two-year license suspension, and a jail sentence of six months to one year. The driver must also complete a substance abuse treatment program and install an IID in his or her vehicle.
  • Third offense. Generally, a third DWI within five years based on the presence of a controlled substance in the driver's system is a felony and carries a $400 fine, a license suspension of two to three years, and one to three years in jail. For a third drug DWI based on impairment within ten years, the driver is looking at felony charges, $1,000 to $5,000 in fines, three to five years in jail, and a three-year license suspension. The driver must also complete a substance abuse treatment program and install an IID in his or her vehicle.

These are the normal ranges of penalties for drug DWI convictions. However, certain factors—such as causing injuries or having a passenger under the age of 13—can increase the penalties that the driver faces.

Getting Legal Help

Rhode Island DWI law is complex, and the facts of every case are different. If you've been arrested for driving under the influence, talk to an experienced DWI attorney in your area. A qualified DWI lawyer can tell you how the law applies to the facts of your case and help you decide on the best course of action.

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