Rhode Island DUI Lawyer
Have you been charged with a DUI in Rhode Island?
In Rhode Island, whether you are charged with a DWI ticket (driving while intoxicated), DUI (driving under the influence), operating while intoxicated (OWI), or operating under the influence (OUI) – you are being accused of driving or operating a vehicle while impaired by the use of an illegal substance. DWI or OWI charges refer specifically to alcohol impairment with a blood alcohol content of .08 or higher, while DUI or OUI could also mean impairment by prescription or illegal drugs.
Regardless of the substance that has caused your impairment, the consequences of a conviction can be dire. If you find yourself in this predicament, contact the Rhode Island DUI attorney at the Law Offices of Stefanie A. Murphy for help.
Navigate this page
- Rhode Island DUI Criminal Penalties
- Rhode Island DUI Offenses
- Defenses for a DUI in Rhode Island
- The DUI Process in Rhode Island
- What Happens Following a Rhode Island DUI Case?
- Rhode Island DUI Frequently Asked Questions
- Areas We Proudly Serve
Rhode Island DUI Criminal Penalties
A DUI charge in Rhode Island is subject to two separate proceedings. One is administrative, by the Department of Motor Vehicles, and the other is criminal, which is handled by the court system.
These are the penalties for an adult’s first DWI in Rhode Island that did not result in injury or death. A prior DUI conviction within the past five years will usually result in enhanced criminal penalties. A court may also require an ignition interlock system as a condition of reinstatement of your license if you have prior convictions.
- Up to a year in jail and/or fines of:
- Up to $300 with BAC below .10
- Up to $400 f with BAC below .15a
- Up to $500 with BAC above .15.
- Plus an additional $500 highway assessment fee at all BAC levels
- Ten to sixty hours of community service
DUI charges that are the result of an accident which caused injury or death are handled with significantly enhanced penalties. These are the penalties for a first offense DUI resulting in an injury or fatality:
DUI Causing Serious Injury:
- One to ten years in prison.
- Fines of $1,000 to $5,000.
- License revocation of up to two years.
- Participation in an alcohol and/or drug treatment program.
- Five to fifteen years in prison
- Fines of $5,000 to $10,000.
- License Revocation for five years.
- Participation in an alcohol or drug treatment program
Prior convictions involving injury or death will result in enhanced penalties.
In some circumstances, you could be charged with felony DUI in Rhode Island. Examples of DUIs that are felony charges include:
- DUI third offense or greater in five year period (RIGL 31-27-2). In a third offense DUI within five years, the following are the penalties for a third offense:
- Fine between $400 and $5000
- Mandatory imprisonment from 1 to five years
- Mandatory three-year loss of license from the sentence completion date
- Alcohol and/or drug counseling
- Community service
- DUI fatality (RIGL 31-27-2). In DUI death resulting cases, the following are the penalties for a first offense:
- Jail time between five and 15 years
- Fine between $5000 and $10,000
- License suspension of five years and subject to DMV clearing the motorist
- May be required to complete alcohol and/or drug treatment
- Along with all other costs and assessments prescribed by law
- DUI serious bodily injury (31-27-2.6). In DUI serious bodily injury cases, the following are the penalties:
- Jail time between 1 and 10 years
- Fine between $1000 and $5000
- License suspension up to two years and subject to DMV clearing the motorist
- Alcohol or drug program
If you are found guilty or plea to felony DUI you will face jail time (up to fifteen years) and hefty fines, probation and a long loss of license. Under Rhode Island law, after you are eligible to have a license, you will probably be required to have an ignition interlock device installed in your car.
Many times, you will also have to appear and be cleared by the medical review board at the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
The Law Offices of Stefanie A. Murphy can help navigate through the Court process and fight for you. By attacking the case from all directions, Attorney Murphy can fight for the best resolution. Fight to get the case dismissed or reduced.
If your license has been suspended, and it is your first or second offense, you may be eligible for a conditional hardship license. A conditional hardship license will allow you to drive to work, go to medical or therapy appointments, attend school or job training, or go to the grocery store. You would still:
- Prove to the court that you have a need, and that inability to drive will create hardship for you or your family.
- Have to install, at your expense, an ignition interlock system.
Having a Rhode Island DUI lawyer to present your case to the judge or magistrate will make it more likely that you will be granted a hardship license and that the hardship license carries the fewest restrictions.
Rhode Island DUI Offenses
If you agreed to take a chemical test after being stopped and arrested then your case might be charged as driving under the influence with readings. These readings fall into two categories. The first is DUI with a blood alcohol content of .10 to .15 BAC. The second is .15 or above. The penalties for a first offense range from 3 months to 18-month loss of license, community service, fines, DUI school and or alcohol counseling. This is a criminal conviction.
DUI Without Readings
If you refused to submit to a chemical BAC test or for some reason a test was not available or working, then you could be charged with driving under the influence, BAC unknown. What this means is that the police officer believes you were driving under the influence but there are no “test” results. The officer would have looked for signs of intoxication and also look to your performance on field sobriety tests in order to form this opinion.
Almost every time, a person who is charged with DUI BAC unknown is also charged with a refusal to submit to a chemical test. See refusal section below. This “doubling charging” means that you are fighting the DUI charge in criminal court and the refusal charge in traffic court.
The penalties for DUI with BAC unknown, first offense ranges from a three to 12-month loss of license, community service, fine, DUI school and or alcohol counseling. This is a criminal conviction.
Refusal to Submit to a Chemical BAC Test
If you refused to submit to a chemical test at the station or hospital (not the portable breath test on the side of the road) you will most likely be charged with refusal to submit to a chemical test. In this case, the town/state must prove that there was a reason to stop you, probable cause to arrest you and reasonable grounds to ask you to submit to a chemical test (along with others requirements), and that you refused.
This refusal charge is heard and prosecuted at the Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal and after the arraignment stage, will be prosecuted by the Department of Attorney General. At the arraignment, the court will decide whether or not a preliminary suspension of your license should occur. If the preliminary suspension is granted, then your license will be suspended while the refusal charge is pending.
This charge carries a six to twelve-month loss of license, a civil charge, community service, fines and DUI school/alcohol counseling.
Driving While Intoxicated
If you are younger than twenty-one and you received a blood alcohol reading of .02 to .08 then you may be charged with driving while intoxicated.
Defenses to DUI Charges
Rhode Island DUI attorney Stephanie A. Murphy will conduct a close examination of the manner in which the test was given to determine where the officer may have deviated even slightly from the proper procedure and will raise questions as to the accuracy of the test, based on the age and maintenance of the equipment. Possible defenses include:
- Police had no probable cause to ask you submit to a breathalyzer, blood, or urine test to provide evidence of criminal impairment.
- Police administered the test without first observing you for at least 15 minutes.
- A copy of the breathalyzer results was not provided to you by mail within 72 hours of the test being administered.
- Police failed to advise you of your right to have an independent chemical test performed by a physician or hospital of your choice and provided or failed to provide you with an opportunity to exercise this right.
- Breathalyzer equipment was not in full compliance with Department of Health regulations.
- The breath test operator was not properly certified to administer the test, within the past 365 days.
- An officer neglected to provide two complete samples taken within a 30-minute period.
- Two samples did not produce readings within .05 percent of each other.
The DUI Process in Rhode Island: What to Expect
The Traffic Stop
A police officer can’t just stop you randomly; at least not legally. However, if the officer has observed certain indications that you might be “under the influence,” or drunk driving, he or she may pull you over. These are some observations that might precipitate a traffic stop:
- Driving in the wrong lane or drifting across the center line.
- Making an unusually wide or other unsafe turn.
- Going in the wrong direction on a one-way street.
- A near miss with another vehicle or stationary object beside the road.
- Swerving or weaving.
- Driving off the edge of the road.
- Driving too slowly or too fast.
- Sudden braking or stopping for no reason in an inappropriate place.
- Tailgating another vehicle.
- Turning into oncoming traffic.
- Signaling one direction while turning in another.
- Being slow to react to traffic signs or signals.
- Driving in the dark without headlights.
- Causing an accident.
Being able to prove that you were pulled over without probable cause may be a defense if you are charged with drunk driving.
The Field Sobriety Test
Police officers are required to attend training when they first become police officers at the police academy. Many officers also receive training on a yearly basis. One of the focuses of this training is field sobriety tests, otherwise known as FSTs.
The National Highway Safety Transportation Association (NHSTA) is an association that has standardized several field sobriety tests. These tests have been shown through studies to be a tool in helping police officers determine if there is probable cause to make an arrest for a DUI.
The police officer will ask you if you’ve been drinking, a question to which you should decline to respond (unless the honest answer is “no”), and will usually ask you to submit to a field sobriety test. Some of the most widely used field sobriety tests include:
- HGN. HGN stands for horizontal gaze nystagmus test. There are three clues that officers look for: 1) lack of smooth pursuit, 2) distinct nystagmus at maximum deviation 3) onset of nystagmus prior to 45 degrees.
- Walk and Turn. There are eight clues for this test. If an officer observes two or more clues, the officer will classify that person as having a BAC above .10.
- One Leg Stand. There are four clues for the one leg stand. If the officer observes two or more clues, the officer will classify that person as having a BAC above .10.
Other tests, which are not all standardized are:
- Walk a certain number of steps heel to toe and then turn and walk back.
- Have a light shone in your eyes to check for dilation or astigmatism, a.k.a involuntary movement.
- Recite the alphabet from a random letter to another (for example, E-Q).
These tests concern your ability to follow instructions along with your ability to actually do them. You are not legally required to take a field sobriety test in Rhode Island. If you refuse, you may be arrested. If you are arrested, contact an experienced Rhode Island DUI attorney immediately.
Breath and Chemical BAC Tests
You will be asked to blow into a device that will measure your blood alcohol content and/or submit to blood or urine chemical tests. Do you have a legal right to refuse? Yes; you have a Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. The question is whether it will be to your advantage. Because of Rhode Island’s Implied Consent law (SECTION 31-27-2.1), obtaining and using a driver’s license means that you agree to be tested for blood alcohol content. You can refuse a breathalyzer, but by law, your license will be administratively suspended. Your refusal can also be presented as evidence against you in court, and while it is possible to defend against a refusal suspension, it is difficult.
You stand a better chance of keeping your driving privileges and beating the DWI charge if you submit to the breathalyzer, even if you fail. There are numerous defenses that can be raised in your behalf by a Rhode Island DUI attorney who understands the law and has the experience and strategic ability to invalidate the test results and keep you from being convicted on this serious and life-damaging charge.
What Happens Following a Rhode Island DUI Case?
After getting pulled over, the officer is assessing the situation and deciding what to do. By speaking and making general observations, the officer may ask you to do some pre-exit tests or ask you out of the car to take field sobriety tests. You do not need to take field sobriety tests, you have a right to politely decline to take them.
If the point comes when the officer feels like he or she has probable cause to arrest you and places handcuffs on and reads you your rights, you are no under arrest and will be brought to the station.
All during the time on the side of the road, the ride to the station and at the station the officer is continuing to observe you and will include these observations in the report. Anything you say before, during and after arrest can be used against you. At the station, the officer will inform you of your rights for use at the station, give you a phone call and ask if you will submit to a chemical test.
Evidence and Defenses
Just like the police officer using all the information he or she gathers when the DUI lawyers at the Law Offices of Stefanie A. Murphy review the reports, video from the station and anything else she will be looking for all of the problems and issues in your case. These issues range with some examples of:
- Passed the field sobriety tests (FST)
- Never read rights for use at the station
- Never given a confidential phone call
- No reason to stop the vehicle
- No probable cause to arrest
- Never read Miranda rights
- Issues with any statements made by the motorist in order to suppress the incriminating statement(s)
- Never refused
- Proper procedure not followed for a chemical test
- Problems with machine
- Never given an opportunity for an independent medical examination
If you have seen the police report, do not worry or get overwhelmed about the evidence. Rhode Island criminal defense attorney Stefanie Murphy will take all the evidence. One by one, she will try to suppress and take away the evidence they have against you. This is done through filing motions and pre-trial conferences with the town or state that arrested you for the crime.
Appearing in Court
Normally, the police department will release you on your promise to appear or a justice of the peace will set bail and you will be given a court date. In some cases, the person is held overnight and brought to court the next morning. The first court appearance is for an arraignment. After the arraignment, you will have several court appearances in criminal court for pre-trial conferences. At this point, your Rhode Island DUI lawyer will conference your case and work to get the case dismissed or amended.
However, if you refused, you will also have traffic court appearances while also having to make appearances in criminal court for the DUI charge. On the first traffic court appearance for a refusal, the court is able to enter a preliminary suspension of your license. If this occurs, then you will NOT be able to drive from that date on – until your case is resolved. This is one of the reasons why it’s so important to call Attorney Murphy and have her present at every court appearance. She will be able to argue against a preliminary suspension and fight to keep your license or ask the court to allow you to get a hardship license.
Should I take a chemical test or refuse the chemical test?
The answer to this question depends on your individual case and situation. The best advice is to call your Rhode Island DUI lawyer while at the station. You can do so during your legal right to a confidential phone call. If you believe that you can blow a .08 or less then you should take the chemical test. If not, then the results of your test can be introduced in the DUI case and by used against you.
What are the penalties for driving under the influence?
The penalties for driving under the influence range depending on what the exact charge. If you refused the chemical test you will be charged with a DUI BAC unknown and will face a three to 12-month loss of license, up to a year in jail, DUI school and/or alcohol counseling, community service and fines, assessments and court costs that are great then $700.If your readings were under a .10, so in between .08 to .10 then the loss of license is significantly less, 30 days plus. If readings are over a .15 then the loss of license is increased to 18 months with enhanced fines and community service.
What if I fail a field sobriety test?
There may be a number of reasons you fail such a test. Medical issues (including vertigo, seizures, chronic knee or back pain etc.), short-term memory problems, being on medication at the time of your stop etc. Be sure to share any and all of these with your Rhode Island DUI lawyer. If you submit to one and fail, the results can often be successfully challenged in court depending on how the tests were conducted by the officer.
Can I win my case if law enforcement made one or more mistakes?
In the event any field sobriety tests are improperly administered let your legal team know at once. One mistake could be the difference between a guilty conviction and having the charges dropped.
Is there a way to not lose my license after driving drunk?
Yes. If you have a Rhode Island license, you may be eligible for a hardship license and/or an interlock license. This works differently for a refusal and a DUI. The Law Offices of Stefanie Murphy has had many clients who were charged with a DUI and/or refusal who did not lose their license either because the case was dismissed or the court granted a hardship license.
What are the statistics?
According to 2017 arrest data, there were a total of 1,788 arrests for driving under the influence in Rhode Island in the year. In 2012, the last year for available data by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2.4% of Rhode Island drivers reported driving after drinking too much in the past 30 days.
Why should I hire a Rhode Island DUI Lawyer?
There are numerous benefits to hiring Stefanie Murphy as your DUI defense lawyer in Rhode Island. Some of the many benefits include a centralized location close to the East Greenwich Town Clerk’s office, only 20 minutes from Providence Superior Court, conveniently located near a number of surrounding cities and communities including Exeter, Coventry, Providence, North Kingstown, West Greenwich, Warwick, and Cowesett. Rhode Island DUI defense attorney Stefanie Murphy also is available for convenient meeting times for you, with the option for home visits if you are unable to make it to our East Greenwich office .
Contact Our Dedicated Rhode Island DUI Attorney
If you have been accused of DWI in Rhode Island, you are facing the possibility of serious disruption to your life. Your freedom, ability to provide for yourself and your family, and loss of reputation in the community can be at stake. Our Rhode Island DUI defense attorney can help you if you have been accused or charged with a DUI. Contact us today to learn more.
We Proudly Serve Rhode Island
Our Rhode Island DUI attorney proudly serves clients in Rhode Island, including the following counties:
- Providence County District Court (Barrington, Bristol, Burrillville, Central Falls, Cumberland, East Providence, Pawtucket, Providence, Warren, Woonsocket)
- Kent County District Court (Coventry, Cranston, East Greenwich, Exeter, Foster, Glocester, Johnston, Lincoln, North Kingstown, North Providence, North Smithfield, Scituate, Smithfield, Warwick, West Greenwich, West Warwick)
- Newport County District Court (Jamestown, Little Compton, Middletown, Newport, Portsmouth, Tiverton)
- Washington County District Court (Charlestown, Hopkinton, Narragansett, New Shoreham, South Kingstown, Richmond, Westerly)
Substance-impaired driving is illegal and dangerous, and Rhode Island takes drunk driving very seriously. You can lose your driving privileges, which hinders your freedom and your ability to get to work. You’ll also have to pay fines and restitution to anyone whose property or person has been damaged. It is therefore in your best interests to fight against being convicted and to keep your driver’s license. With the help of an experienced Rhode Island DUI attorney, you can build a strong case to protect your rights.
A recent review from one of our happy clients: “Stefanie went to court and the matter was resolved in our favor!! A great attorney and a nice person too. Perfect. I would recommend her to anyone.” – Client