Rhode Island DUI Laws

Rhode Island DUI Basics

In the state or Rhode Island operating under the influence charges can be prosecuted in two ways. The first of these ways is through intoxication. When an individual operates a motor vehicle under the influence he or she can be charged with impairment. Impairment charges state that an individual is too impaired either physically or mentally to drive safely.

The prosecuting attorney will provide evidence before the court to prove the charges. Evidence normally includes physical appearance, field sobriety testing, blood alcohol content levels, driving patterns, chemical testing, and others. However an individual can have a blood alcohol content level that exceeds the legal limit and still not be impaired. Impairment can also include impairment by drugs — both legal and illegal — as well as a combination of drugs and alcohol.

An individual can also be prosecuted under per se charges. Per se charges state that an individual drove while having a blood alcohol content level above the national legal limit of 0.08 percent. The prosecution will provide an individual’s blood alcohol content level before the court as evidence. This kind of prosecution is based on an individual’s body chemistry rather than whether or not he or she is physically or mentally capable of driving.


In the United States when an individual obtains a driver’s license, he or she gives common consent to submit to chemical testing when requested. Chemical testing includes breath testing, urine testing, and blood testing.

In Rhode Island when an individual refuses to submit to chemical testing, when requested by a police officer, he or she will be brought on criminal charges. These charges exist outside of operating under the influence charges. The consequences for refusing chemical testing include driver’s license suspension, community service, fines, and alcohol education courses. When an individual is brought before the court under operating under the influence and refusal charges, the court will most often assume the individual is guilty because of test refusal.


The severity of an individual’s operating under the influence conviction is based on his or her criminal history and prior drunken driving offenses. However Rhode Island has a washout period after five years where any offense that took place five years or more cannot be used as a prior offense.

A majority of the time driving under the influence charges are considered misdemeanor offenses, until a third offense occurs in a five-year time period. After this time the driving under the influence charge becomes a felony offense.

A first offense can increase, whether or not an individual has prior offenses or not, if he or she has a blood alcohol content twice the legal limit. Convictions can include alcohol education course attendance, driver’s license suspension, community service, incarceration, fines, and ignition interlock devices.

Aggravating factors can also increase an individual’s sentencing. Aggravating circumstances includes having a minor in the motor vehicle, driving over the speed limit, cause another injury, causing another death, and having a high blood alcohol content level. Aggravating factors can increase charges exponential, even upon a first offense.

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