Petrarca and Petrarca Law Offices

A rhode island police officer arresting a woman for a Rhode Island DUI

DUI Laws & Penalties in Rhode Island: What to Know

Drinking and driving never mix. Like every state, Rhode Island DUI cases are taken seriously, and even first-time offenders can face jail time and license suspension. However, some people may have the ability to gain a hardship license or have their record expunged under certain circumstances.

If you’re curious to learn about DUI laws and penalties in Rhode Island, read on for more information, courtesy of a Rhode Island DUI lawyer.

What’s the difference between a DUI and a DWI?

There are two common terms that refer to driving while intoxicated:

  • Driving Under the Influence (DUI)
  • Driving While Intoxicated (DWI)

Generally, Rhode Island uses the term “DWI,” although you may also see “DUI” used interchangeably.

Basic Rhode Island DUI laws

In Rhode Island, driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or other controlled substances can result in either a misdemeanor or felony charge, depending on whether or not it was a repeat offense.

To be charged, one or more of the following criteria must be met:

  • A person has a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or more, as shown by chemical analysis from a breath, blood, or urine sample.
  • There is other evidence of intoxication.

A chart showing dui arrests by state

Rhode Island DUI classes and penalties

The severity of Rhode Island DUI penalties can differ, based on a person’s BAC and whether or not the person was a repeat offender.

What are the penalties for a Rhode Island DUI first offense?

First offenses for a Rhode Island DUI differ based on a person’s BAC.

Penalties for a person with a BAC of at least .08% but less than .1% are as follows:

  • Fines between $100-$300
  • 10-60 hours of community service and/or up to one year in jail
  • License suspension of 30-180 days.

The penalties for a first offense with a BAC of .1% and less than .15% can include the following:

  • Fines between $100-$400
  • 10-60 hours of community service and/or up to one year in jail
  • License suspension of 3-12 months.

Lastly, for a person with a BAC of .15% or more, penalties are:

  • $500 fine
  • 20-60 hours of community service and/or up to one year in jail
  • License suspension between 3-18 months.

What are the penalties for a second DUI in Rhode Island?

For a second offense within 5 years, the penalties for a person with a BAC between .08 and .15% include the following.

  • $400 fine.
  • 10 days to 1 year in jail.
  • License suspension of 1-2 years.

The penalties are listed below for a second offender within 5 years who has a BAC of .15% or more:

  • $1,000 fine
  • License suspension of 2 years.
  • 6 months to one year in jail.

What are the penalties for a third DUI in Rhode Island?

For a third subsequent DUI within five years, penalties include the following for a person with a BAC between .08 and .15%.

  • $400 fine.
  • 2-3 year license suspension
  • 1-3 years in jail.

For a third offender within 10 years who has a BAC of .15%. Or more, the following penalties apply:

  • $1,000-$5,000 fine.
  • 3-year license suspension
  • 3-5 years in jail.

Additionally, anyone with a third or subsequent violation within 5 years could also have their vehicle seized by the state and sold, at the judge’s discretion.

What are Rhode Island’s ignition interlock laws?

For some people, a license suspension could put a severe strain on their daily lives. Therefore, under certain circumstances, some DWI offenders may be eligible to file for a conditional hardship license, which would allow them to continue driving during their license suspension.

To qualify, a person must first serve a certain amount of their license suspension, usually around 40 to 45 days. Next, they must have an ignition interlock device installed in their vehicle, which is a handheld breathalyzer connected to a car’s ignition. If the person fails the breathalyzer test, the ignition interlock device won’t allow the car to start, which helps to prevent drunk driving.

The amount of time that a person needs to have an ignition interlock device in their car can vary, depending on their sentence.

What happens if you refuse a chemical test in RI?

What if you refuse to submit to a chemical test, like a refusal of breathalyzer in RI?

Anyone who operates a motor vehicle in Rhode Island is considered to have already consented to chemical testing for the presence of alcohol or controlled substances. It’s a principle called “implied consent,” and refusing the test could lead to civil penalties, like license suspensions and fines. For example, refusal to submit to a chemical blood test won’t result in criminal penalties by itself, but if you have previous offenses, then the civil penalties may increase.

How long does a DUI stay on your record in Rhode Island?

This depends on whether or not a DUI was a misdemeanor or a felony.

Besides, in Rhode Island, misdemeanors are available for expungement 5 years after the completion of a person’s sentence, provided that there are no repeat offenses and their record remains clear of violent offenses.

Non-violent felonies are expunged if:

  • At least 10 years have passed since completing the sentence or probation
  • The person remains arrest-free and has no other felony convictions on their record.

If you’re curious to learn if you might be eligible for an expungement, it’s best to contact a Rhode Island expungement lawyer for advice on your case.

A Providence DUI lawyer you can trust

If you stand accused of a DUI or refusal or want information about expungement in Rhode Island, contact Petrarca Law for guidance.

As experienced Rhode Island DUI attorneys, we fight aggressively for our client’s rights both inside and outside the courtroom. With a combined 40 years of experience, we’ve defended against a variety of charges, such as DUIs, refusals, and more. Before you admit to an offense, contact an attorney who knows Rhode Island DUI laws inside and out.

Call our office today for a free consultation.