What Is a Felony DWI in Rhode Island?

Aggravating factors that can make a drunk driving charge a felony.

Rhode Island's DWI (driving while intoxicated) laws prohibit operating a vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or more, while under the influence of drugs, or with any amount of a controlled substance in your system. Generally, a DWI conviction is a misdemeanor. But certain circumstances—such as having prior convictions—can elevate a DWI to a felony.

Here are some of the circumstances that can result in felony DWI charges in Rhode Island.

Third or Subsequent DWI Conviction Is a Felony

For a first or second DWI, the driver will typically be facing misdemeanor charges. But a third or subsequent DWI within a five-year period is a felony.

The penalties for a third or subsequent DUI depend on the driver's BAC level. When the driver's BAC is at least .08% but less than .15%, there's a $400 fine, two- to three-year license suspension, and a one- to three-year jail sentence. With a BAC of at least .15%, the motorist is looking at three to five years in jail, $1,000 to $5,000 in fines, and a three-year license suspension.

Minor Passengers

A motorist who's convicted for the second time of a DWI with a child under the age of 13 in the car will face felony charges. A conviction carries up to five years in jail and a maximum $5,000 in fines.

DWI on a Suspended License

A DWI is a felony if the offense occurs while the driver has a suspended, revoked, or canceled license related to a prior DWI offense. Convicted drivers face up to three years in jail and a maximum fine of $3,000.

Felony Charges for DWIs Involving Injuries and Deaths

A DUI involving an accident where someone is seriously injured is a felony. Convicted motorists are typically looking at one to ten years in prison, fines of $1,000 to $5,000, and a license revocation of up to two years.

Causing the death of another person while driving under the influence is a felony. Convictions generally carry five to 15 years in prison, $5,000 to $10,000 in fines, and a five-year license revocation.

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