Rhode Island DUI Lawyer

Kilroy Law Firm of Providence, Rhode Island

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. Contacting a Rhode Island DUI lawyer to discuss your case is a smart first step.

If you are in need of a Rhode Island DUI attorney, don’t hesitate to contact Kilroy Law Firm today.

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What’s the difference between DUI and OUI?

An image symbolizing a DUI case handled by an attorney in Rhode Island.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.

Submitting to a Chemical Test

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. Contact our OUI & DUI lawyer. We represent clients in Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

Field Sobriety Tests

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.

Tough DUI and OUI Laws

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.

Penalties for DUI in Rhode Island

A client and his attorney in Rhode Island talking about a DUI case.In Rhode Island, the potential penalty for a conviction of DUI depends on how many times you have been convicted of DUI in the past as well as your BAC. Maximum penalties are as follows:

First Offense

BAC between 0.08 and 0.10

  • One year in jail
  • Fines and costs of approximately $800
  • 10 to 60 hours of public community service
  • License suspension of 30 to 180 days

BAC between 0.10 and 0.15

  • One year in jail
  • Fines and costs of approximately $800
  • 10 to 60 hours of public community service
  • License suspension of 90 to 365 days
  • Mandatory enrollment in an alcohol treatment program and/or driving school

BAC greater than 0.15 or blood test indicates drug impairment

  • One year in jail
  • Fines and costs of approximately $1,200
  • 20 to 60 hours of public community service
  • License suspension of 90 to 365 days
  • Mandatory enrollment in an alcohol treatment program and/or driving school

Second Offense

The penalties for a second offense DUI in Rhode Island are more severe than first offense penalties and include a mandatory jail sentence upon conviction. For a DUI offense to be considered a second offense, the defendant must have been convicted of DUI within the last five years. Sometimes, an experienced Rhode Island DUI lawyer can argue for the mandatory jail sentence to be served via home confinement.

BAC between 0.08 and 0.15

  • Mandatory minimum jail time of 10 days, up to a maximum of one year
  • Fines and costs in excess of $1,200
  • License suspension of one to two years
  • Mandatory alcohol and/or drug treatment

BAC greater than 0.15

  • Mandatory minimum jail time of six months, up to a maximum of one year
  • Fines and costs in excess of $1,750
  • License suspension of one to two years
  • Mandatory alcohol and/or drug treatment

Third Offense

This offense can be charged against someone who has been convicted of two prior DUI offenses within the last five years. A third offense is considered a felony and is subject to the following penalties upon conviction:

BAC between 0.08 and 0.15

  • Mandatory minimum jail time of one year in jail, up to a maximum of three years
  • Fines and costs in excess of $1,200
  • License suspension of two to three years
  • Mandatory alcohol and/or drug treatment

BAC greater than 0.15

  • Mandatory minimum jail time of three years in jail, up to a maximum of five years
  • Fines between $1,000 and $5,000
  • License suspension of three years
  • Mandatory alcohol and/or drug treatment

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 Rhode Island DUI defense attorney or OUI and refusal lawyer can be critical to your success.

What Are the Penalties for a DUI/OUI?

A driver who is suspected of DUI in Rhode Island about to be pulled over.The penalty for a DUI or OUI will depend on how influenced you are by drugs or alcohol, whether accidents or injuries occurred, and if you had prior convictions.

Potential Penalties for a DUI in Rhode Island

In Rhode Island, penalties for a DUI are complicated and vary based on your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) and whether it is your first or second offense.

For first time offenders:

  • BAC 0.08 – 0.10: Up to 1 year in county jail, driver’s license suspension of 30 to 180 days, fines up to $800, community service of 10 to 60 hours, enrollment in an alcohol treatment program.
  • BAC of 0.10 – 0.15: Up to 1 year in county jail, driver’s license suspension of 3 to 12 months, fines up to $800, 10 to 60 hours of community service, mandatory alcohol treatment program, and driving school.
  • BAC Higher than 0.15: Up to 1 year in jail, driver’s license suspension of 3 to 12 months, fines up to $1,200, up to 60 hours in community service, and mandatory enrollment in an alcohol treatment program and driving school.
  • Drug Impairment: Up to 1 year in jail, driver’s license suspension ranging from 3 to 12 months, fines up to $1,200, 20 to 60 hours of required community service, and a mandatory drug treatment program.

Second-time offenders will experience increased penalties, including mandatory minimum jail sentences. For example, if you tested positive for a BAC of 0.08 to 0.15, you have a mandatory minimum of 10 days and up to 1 year in jail. You also have a driver’s license suspension of 1 to 2 years and fines up to $1,200.

Third and subsequent offenses also have mandatory minimums that increase severely. Instead of a mandatory minimum of 10 days in jail, you now face a mandatory minimum of 1 year – but the judge can increase it up to 3 years. You will also have a driver’s license suspension of 2 to 3 years.

Potential Penalties of an OUI in Massachusetts

Like Rhode Island, Massachusetts also has increased penalties for OUIs with the more offenses you have on your record. First offenses are treated more severely in this state than Rhode Island.

For a first offense, you could get:

  • Up to 2.5 years in prison
  • Fines from $500 to $5,000
  • Driver’s license suspension for up to 1 year

For a second offense, you may face:

  • 60 days in jail and up to 2.5 years in prison, with a mandatory minimum of 30 days
  • Fines from $600 to $10,000
  • Driver’s license suspension for up to 2 years

For a third offense, you could get:

  • 180 days to 2.5 years in county jail or 2.5 years to 5 years in prison with a mandatory minimum of 150 days served
  • Fines from $1,000 to $15,000
  • Driver’s license suspension for up to 8 years

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 PBT?

PBT stands for the “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 to 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 a Rhode Island DUI defense lawyer 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 an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) on your 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 the 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 the Statute of Limitations in Rhode Island for DUI?

The statute of limitations for Rhode Island criminal charges varies according to the charges filed against you. For certain high-level offenses, there is literally no time limit within which prosecutors can charge you with a crime. These crimes include:

  • Homicide;
  • Treason against the state;
  • First, second, and third-degree arson;
  • Counterfeiting;
  • Robbery;
  • Rape;
  • Burglary;
  • Child molestation;
  • And more.

For these crimes the clock literally never tolls and charges can be brought at any time. Other serious charges like receiving stolen goods, embezzlement and fraud, obtaining property under false pretenses, and many more crimes have a time limit of 10 years within which the state can file charges against you.

But for all other crimes, including both felony and misdemeanor DUI, the statute of limitations is three years.

This means that if the state procrastinates or delays filing charges against you for DUI, they are no longer allowed to file charges after the three-year period is up. Of course, if you killed someone while driving drunk, a homicide may be involved. If so, this complicates matters because homicide has no time limits. So it is always best to present the facts of your case to an experienced criminal charges defense legal practitioner to get the most accurate guidance.

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 on it
  • Don’t “just plead guilty and get it over with” unless your Rhode Island DUI legal practitioner 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 Rhode Island DUI attorney knows immediately that you hold a CDL.

Illustrative Example

A police checking drivers on a road located in Rhode Island.Bob is pulled over at a Massachusetts sobriety checkpoint that was set up at a busy intersection. The officer, suspecting that he is intoxicated, proposes to administer a breath test to Bob, but Bob refuses to take the test. The officer then arrests him, and he is charged with both DUI and refusing to submit to a chemical test.

At trial, Bob argues that the sobriety checkpoint was illegally racially profiling him because most of the motorists who were stopped were African-American. Bob’s lawyer motions the court to dismiss all of the prosecution’s evidence against Bob on the premise that he should never have been stopped in the first place. If the motion is granted, the case will be over, because the prosecution will have no remaining evidence to use against Bob.

The prosecution argues that most of the drivers stopped were African-American because the checkpoint was located in a primarily African-American neighborhood, and that the particular intersection was targeted because of its historically high accident rate.

The court finds that the roadblock was not racially discriminatory, because the fact that most drivers stopped were African-American was incidental to the fact that the police used a racially neutral standard (the intersection’s high accident rate) as the justification for setting up the sobriety checkpoint. Accordingly, the defense motion to throw out the evidence against Bob is denied.

The prosecutor, lacking a breath test to prove that Bob was intoxicated (because of Bob’s refusal), relied on stationhouse videos taken during Bob’s booking to prove Bob’s intoxication. The court decides that the video does not establish Bob’s intoxication beyond a reasonable doubt, and it acquits him of DUI.

The court ultimately convicts Bob for refusing to take a chemical test. Since Bob’s driver’s license was issued by the state of Arizona, Massachusetts cannot suspend it. Instead, the Massachusetts DMV forbids Bob from driving within the state of Massachusetts for 180 days and it notifies the Arizona DMV of Bob’s conviction in Massachusetts.

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 family law, criminal law, or 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.

Client is arrested by the Portsmouth Police Department and charged with Driving Under the Influence (“DUI”) under Rhode Island General Laws Section 31-27-2. 

After her arrest, client hired Noah Kilroy to represent her. Upon further investigation, Attorney Kilroy discovered that client, at the time she did her field sobriety test, had a leg injury that prevented her from completing a large portion of her sobriety test. When Attorney Kilroy brought this to the attention of the prosecution, the City of Portsmouth agreed to dismiss the DUI charge against client.

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 a DUI lawyer 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, DUI Attorney Noah 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.

Our experienced legal team also handles other types of criminal charges cases, including:

Don’t wait to contact our Rhode Island DUI attorney until criminal charges have been filed against you. The sooner you contact our office, the sooner we can begin preparing a vigorous defense. To schedule a free consultation with Kilroy Law Firm, contact us online or call us.

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