Rhode Island DUI & OUI Refusal Lawyer
Being arrested and charged with a DUI (Driving Under the Influence) or an OUI (Operating Under the Influence) can be a scary and complicated situation. But what’s the difference between the two?
A DUI refers to driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. An OUI is more encompassing because you can be charged for operating a vehicle or being in physical contact with a vehicle. Theoretically, that could mean that if you’re sitting in your car, parked on the side of the road, asleep, you could be charged with an OUI.
It’s also common that when you’re pulled over on suspicion of driving under the influence, the police officer will ask you to submit to a chemical test. This is a test that uses either blood, urine or breath to determine your blood alcohol content (BAC) level. Refusing to take the chemical test can actually be almost as bad as failing it. Among other negative outcomes, your driver’s license can be suspended or revoked, due to the concept of “implied consent.” When you signed the necessary papers to receive your driver’s license, you agreed to comply with a police officer’s request during a traffic stop.
The field sobriety test is actually a series of tests usually administered right at the scene, and entails the administering officer looking for certain clues as to impairment. Among the possible negative outcomes of a DUI, OUI or refusal, penalties can include jail time, suspension of license, community service, probation, substance abuse counseling, and a fine.
Both Rhode Island and Massachusetts have toughened their DUI and OUI-related laws over the last few decades in response to lobbying by organizations such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). However, yielding passively to a DUI, OUI or Refusal can result in an avalanche of more problems for you..
Fortunately, there are ways to fight back. You might have a viable defense against your refusal to submit to a chemical test, for example. Even if you don’t, there are ways to mitigate the penalties so that you can get back to your normal routine as soon as possible. If this is your goal, the assistance of a trained and experienced DUI or OUI and refusal attorney can be critical to your success.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is a “chemical test”?
A chemical test is a test for the presence of intoxicants in your bloodstream (not necessarily limited to alcohol), such as:
- A Breathalyzer test
- A blood test
- A urine test (rarely used)
The result of a chemical test is strong evidence against you, if you fail it.
What is a PBT?
PBT stands for “Preliminary Breath Test.” It is a test of your breath for intoxicants that the officer uses to determine whether to arrest you for DUI/OUI. A PBT is NOT the same as a Breathalyzer test. The officer will administer a Breathalyzer test only after you are arrested. The penalty for refusing a PBT is an $85 fine.
What are the penalties for refusing a chemical test in Rhode Island?
Rhode Island has beefed up penalties in recent years. For a first offense (over 21 years of age) they now include:
- A fine of $200 to $500 (plus various assessments)
- Community service of 10 to 60 hours
- Driver’s license suspension of six to twelve months
- Participation in DUI School or alcohol abuse counseling
What are the penalties for refusing a chemical test in Massachusetts?
If you refuse a chemical test in Massachusetts, your driver’s license will be suspended for at least 180 days. Penalties increase dramatically if you are under 21, if you have a previous refusal, or if you have any previous OUI convictions. The maximum penalty is a lifetime suspension.
I am from out of state. How can Rhode Island or Massachusetts suspend my out-of-state driver’s license?
They cannot suspend an out-of-state driver’s license. They can, however, suspend your right to drive within the state on any driver’s license. They will almost certainly notify the state that issued your driver’s license, and your state will penalize you according its own law.
Can I be convicted of both DUI/OUI and refusing a chemical test?
Yes you can, although it is not necessarily inevitable. By refusing a chemical test, you deprive the prosecutor of evidence that he would have used against you if you had taken the test and failed it. If the prosecutor’s remaining evidence is enough to convict you, you can be convicted of both offenses.
What is the Driver License Compact?
The Driver License Compact is an agreement among state governments to share information on driving records. This means that any violations on your driving record will be held against you in any state that is a member of the Driver License Compact, even if you move out of state and apply for a driver’s license there. Both Rhode Island and Massachusetts are members of the Driver License Compact.
Am I entitled to a hearing on my driver’s license suspension?
Yes, you are. In fact, it is a constitutional requirement. You may be represented by an attorney at the hearing. However, you will not receive a hearing unless you request one through proper channels before the deadline expires.
If my driver’s license is suspended, it is possible to restore limited driving privileges so I can drive to and from work or school?
Rhode Island offers a “conditional hardship license” to drive to and from work. You must install a Ignition Interlock Device (IID) on you vehicle. You will face a delay in obtaining this license, and the judge is entitled to refuse your application. In Massachusetts, hardship licenses are very difficult to obtain, although they are sometimes allowed for first-time offenders.
Are sobriety checkpoints (where every driver is stopped) legal?
Sobriety checkpoints are illegal in Rhode Island. They are legal in Massachusetts as long as certain restrictions and procedures are observed. The rationale for the restrictions is that a sobriety checkpoint allows an officer to stop motorists who are doing nothing suspicious, i.e., without probable cause.
Do I have a defense if the officer had no right to stop me in the first place?
Yes, you do. The hard part, however, is establishing that the officer had no right to stop you in the first place. One way you might accomplish this would be to prove that you were stopped at an unconstitutional DUI checkpoint. Another way might be to establish that you were the victim of racial profiling.
What happens if I am later charged with driving on a suspended license but did not know about the suspension?
The state government will mail notice of your driver’s license suspension to your last known address. “I never received it” is no defense as long as notification was properly mailed. The general attitude is that since you knew that you refused to submit to a chemical test, you should have known that your driver’s license would be suspended.
Do I have a defense if the officer failed to “read me my rights” after my arrest?
Probably not, although it might help you. If the officer failed to read you your rights after your arrest, nothing you say can be used against you. If the prosecutor has enough evidence to convict you without relying on your statements, you can be convicted even though you were never read your rights.
Are DUI/OUI laws any different for juveniles?
Yes. If you are under 21 years old, the legal limit is 0.02 percent in both Rhode Island and Massachusetts. You can register 0.02 percent with as little as one beer in an hour. Penalties are also harsher — for example, refusing a breath test will get you a three year driver’s license suspension in Massachusetts.
What is a “lookback period”?
The “lookback period” refers to how far back in time the state will look for previous DUI/OUI conviction in order to determine whether you should be treated as a repeat offender. In Rhode Island, the lookback period is five years. In Massachusetts it is your entire lifetime — for example, if you were convicted of DUI at 18 years old, had no convictions for the next 40 years, and are convicted of a second DUI at age 58, it will be considered a second offense.
What are some mistakes that I should avoid after my arrest?
Observe the following precautions:
- Show up in court on your court date no matter what
- Do not drink alcohol while your case is pending
- Do not drive on a suspended license
- Set your social media profile to its highest privacy setting and be careful what you post o it
- Don’t “just plead guilty and get it over with” unless your attorney advises you to do so.
How will a charge of DUI or refusal to submit to a chemical test affect my Commercial Driver’s License?
If you are convicted of either of these offenses, federal law mandates that you lose your CDL for at least one year. It doesn’t matter whether you were driving a commercial or private vehicle prior to the arrest. Since CDL laws are highly complex, it is important that your lawyer know immediately that you hold a CDL.
Kilroy Law Firm’s Best Price Guarantee
At Kilroy Law Firm we are confident of winning. This is not just rhetoric — we put our money where our mouth is. If we quote a price for our legal services in a family law, criminal law or personal injury matter, and you find another law firm that beats our price for the same legal work, we won’t just match their quotation — we’ll beat it by 10 percent. That’s our Best Price Guarantee.
The Rhode Island and Massachusetts Justice Systems are Competitive and Adversarial
The competitive nature of the legal system means that you are going to have to fight for anything you get from it. The good news is that fighting for our clients is exactly what we are trained to do, and it is what we do every day. The criminal justice system is subject to complex rules of evidence and civil procedure that could easily trip you up without experienced legal representation.
Our founding partner Noah J. Kilroy has worked as a government attorney, and during that time he gained invaluable knowledge of what cases look like from the government’s side of the table. If you have been charged with DUI, OUI or refusal, it is the government that will be prosecuting. Retaining an attorney who is familiar with the “enemy’s playbook” can only help your chances.
Waiting Too Long to Respond Could Damage Your Case
If you’ve already been arrested and criminally charged, or if you suspect you’re being investigated and charges are forthcoming, contact Kilroy Law Firm. As a former prosecutor, Attorney Kilroy has devoted his firm to the practice of law in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Due to his experience, he knows what’s at stake for you and will work zealously to safeguard your rights and provide you with the best possible defense.
Don’t wait to contact our OUI and DUI lawyer until criminal charges have been filed against you. The sooner you contact our office, the sooner we can begin preparing a rigorous defense. To schedule a free consultation, contact us online or call or text us at (401) 855-9023.