DWI/DUI and Refusal to Submit to a Chemical Test are covered by Rhode Island General Laws § 31-27-2 Driving under influence of liquor or drugs and § 31-27-2.1 Refusal to submit to chemical test. The statutes outline not only the elements which need to be proven by either the State of Rhode Island or an individual city or town in order to effectuate either a conviction for DWI/DUI or to sustain a charge of refusal to submit to a chemical test. What does that mean? In order to properly understand what it means to be charged with either DWI/DUI or refusal to submit to a chemical test in Rhode Island, a motorist must understand what is at stake with both statutes. Let’s start with DWI/DUI.
Most importantly, a client must understand that DWI/DUI in Rhode Island is a misdemeanor offense. By statute and definition that means a criminal offense punishable by up to one year in jail or a fine of up to $1000, or both. In addition to those penalties, DWI/DUI is unique because it allows the court to suspend the driver’s license of any person convicted of DWI/DUI. These penalties differ with each individual case. § 31-27-2 Driving under influence of liquor or drugsspells out all of the elements that need to be proven and the penalties based on the level of intoxication of a driver. Also taken into account by a judge will be the criminal record of a driver, if any, and any driving offenses occurring prior to the arrest. Most importantly, the prosecution and the judge will be looking to see if a motorist has any prior alcohol-related offenses in the prior five years. If a motorist that does have a prior alcohol-related offense, DWI/DUI, or refusal in the prior five years, the penalties will be increased according to statute.
But even if a motorist does not have any other offenses on his criminal or driving record, in all likelihood the prosecution and the court will be suggesting that a motorist’s license be suspended for a period not less than 30 days nor more than 18 months based on the blood alcohol level (BAC) of each motorist. For subsequent offenses the suspension of a motorist’s license will be in excess of one year in the fines associated with a conviction shall be increased. This is why choosing the right attorney for your DWI/DUI is of most importance.
§ 31-27-2.1 Refusal to submit to chemical test is considered a civil matter in the State of Rhode Island and is handled exclusively at the Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal. The penalties for a refusal to submit to a chemical test mirror those penalties for DWI/DUI with one major and glaring exception. For a first offense finding of refusal, a magistrate of the Traffic Tribunal may suspend a motorist’s license for a minimum six months. However, there are other important implications of being charged with refusal to submit to a chemical test. First and foremost, upon initial appearance before a magistrate at the Traffic Tribunal, if the court finds that a police officer or other member of law enforcement had reasonable suspicion to believe that a motorist was driving under the influence of either alcohol or drugs, that the officer requested that a motorist submit to a chemical test, and a motorist refused to submit to a chemical test, a magistrate may preliminarily suspend a driver’s privilege to operate in the State of Rhode Island. The motorist will have five days to turn their license in at operator control before the license is suspended indefinitely pending outcome of the matter. In addition it is important to note that a motorist may be charged with both the DWI/DUI and a refusal. In fact this is not only common, but it is the norm with most police departments. This means that a motorist must make very important decisions in two separate arenas: a criminal court and the Traffic Tribunal.
Having vast experience with both DWI/DUI defense and refusal defense, Christopher knows how to best advise his clients. Due to the fact that there may be both criminal and civil implications involved in each and every case, it is of utmost importance to contact an attorney that is experienced and knowledgeable with all of the elements of DWI/DUI and refusal. Christopher is available 24/7, and you should call him immediately upon being charged with either offense. Remember the best defense is a good offense.