If pulled over on suspicion of drunk driving (DUI) in Rhode Island, should the accused refuse a breathalyzer upon the request of a law enforcement official? There is no definitive answer to this query because the correct answer depends on the facts and circumstances, at that time. However, more often than not a person should refuse the breathalyzer.
If you refuse the Breathalyzer test requested by the RI State police of local police, your license and/or privilege to drive in Rhode Island and Providence Plantations will be automatically suspended after the arraignment but prior to any hearing or disposition of the matter on the merits. The reason that a refusal on your record is better then a dui is because a refusal is a civil matter and a dui is a criminal cause of action.
If you refuse a Breathalyzer test, the chances of prevailing after a hearing on the merits are slim.
If you are charged with either criminal drunk driving or civil refusal to take a breathalyzer test, than you should contact an experienced RI drunk driving criminal defense attorney A Providence drunk driving lawyer will fight your case to get you the justice you deserve. In a civil refusal testimonial hearing, the state of RI is only required to establish that the investigating officer had probable cause to make an arrest and reasonable suspicion to pull over your motor vehicle on the suspicion that you were are operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated. The State of Rhode Island must present testimony and establish that you were properly read your rights, and that you refused.
RI breathalyzer refusal lawyer
Most Rhode Island residents are unaware that even if you refuse to take the breathalyzer and you do not take the test, that the State of Rhode Island usually will still charge you with driving under the influence premised on the police officer(s) observations. In legal parlance, this is what is sometimes known as an “observation case”. Many, but not all, towns & cities in Rhode Island will dismiss the criminal observation case if the criminal accused agrees to cop a plea for minimum sanctions (at least 6 months) at the refusal hearing at the traffic tribunal.
If a Justice of the RI traffic tribunal finds you guilty of refusal to submit to a chemical test, pursuant to Gen. Laws 1956 § 31-27-2.1, which is a civil violation then penalties will be imposed by the Court. If this is a a 1st violation within a 5 years, the penalty will be a minimum of 6 months to a maximum of 12 months loss of Rhode Island driver’s license as well as substantial monetary fines, driver retraining and community service. (In the event that you do not have a RI license then the Court can only revoke your privilege to drive in the Ocean State. The Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) will likely send the information to your licensing state for potential reciprocal action.) The department of motor vehicles will require that a motorist submit an SR-22 from their insurance to show proof of financial responsibility.
The advantages of a civil failure to submit to a chemical test (refusal) over a criminal driving under the influence case is that the penalty for a 1st refusal is a civil violation that will not be a criminal conviction on your record. (A second offense refusal to submit to a chemical test is now a criminal offense in RI!)If a criminal accused submits to a chemical test and fails, he or she will be charged with a criminal driving under the influence. These cases which are determined in RI District Court are much more difficult for the state or city solicitor to prove than a refusal.
There is a much greater chance for your RI drunk driving criminal defense lawyers to win dui cases then refusal violation hearings.
Your chances of winning a RI criminal DUI case is far greater than a breathalyzer refusal case! If you submit to the Breathalyzer and are therefore not charged with a refusal, you will not automatically lose your license at the court arraignment hearing (as you would in a breathalyzer refusal case at the RI Traffic Tribunal in Cranston) In a criminal DUI case, a criminal defendant will only lose his or her drivers license if convicted. If an accused agrees to a plea to a dui or is found guilty of drunk driving then it will be a criminal conviction because a fine is imposed.(Pursuant to RI laws, any criminal charge (dui or otherwise) that results in a fine imposed by the Court will constitute a conviction)
If you submit to a breathalyzer test and are charged with a DUI then you can drive your car, truck or motor vehicle while the case winds through the criminal justice system. This is in Stark contrast to a refusal violation hearing in which you must surrender your license and not drive at the arraignment in the beginning of the case. If convicted in a criminal DUI case 1st offense, you will lose your drivers license from a minimum of 30 days to up to a year. Please note that there are enhanced penalties for 2nd, 3rd and 4th offenses which include mandatory jail time as well as far longer license suspensions. There are increased penalties depending on the amount of alcohol in the defendant’s system. see § 31-27-2 Driving under influence of liquor or drugs. http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/Statutes/title31/31-27/31-27-2.htm
If convicted of driving under the influence, you will also have to take driving classes, do community service and obtain expensive insurance for your vehicle. In a criminal DUI, the state must not only prove probable cause to make the arrest, they must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you were too intoxicated to operate a motor vehicle in the State of Rhode Island as well as proving that you were properly read your rights and that other legal requirements were met. If you lose the criminal DUI case, you will have a criminal conviction on your record. A criminal conviction can severely hurt employment opportunities and in some case lead to loss of a job. Also, a second or third conviction for DUI/DWI will mean mandatory jail time.
RI drunk driving statute: http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/Statutes/title31/31-27/31-27-2.1.HTM
Are there any definitive rules to determine if a citizen should refuse a chemical test in RI?
a) Yes. If a motorist is 100 percent confident that he or she will pass the chemical test, submit to the Breathalyzer test.
b) If someone is injured in a motor vehicle accident – you MUST ALWAYS REFUSE the Breathalyzer.
c) If you already have a criminal DUI within the past 5 years, then you must refuse because you face mandatory jail time.
d) If you are a professional or in a profession in which a criminal conviction could damage your career aspirations, you need to drive at work or a conviction will cause you to lose your employment or subject you to professional discipline, i.e. lawyer, politician, teacher, then you probably should refuse. (Please note that pursuant to recent changes in RI law some people may qualify to driver to and from work)
If the bright line rules are not applicable, then what do you do?
Utilize a balancing test. A vehicle operator under suspicion for drunk driving needs to balance his need to drive an automobile versus what effect a criminal drunk driving conviction will have on his life prospects. If you absolutely need your license to drive and a criminal conviction will not affect your life, then take the test if none of the bright line rules (such as an injury) apply.
If you submit to a Breathalyzer test at the request of a law enforcement official, you will not automatically lose your license and can drive during the pendency of the case. In a criminal prosecution for drunk driving you will only have your drivers license suspended if you are convicted. Your chances of winning a DUI criminal prosecution and retaining your RI State license is much greater than a breathalyzer refusal case at the Traffic Tribunal. However, the flip side is that if you lose the criminal case, then you will have a conviction on your record and minimum jail potential for a second offense.
Does Rhode Island allow a person to drive for work after their license is suspended for DWI or refusal?
Yes. Under limited circumstances if a person qualifies he or she can drive to work. This is called a “hardship license”. Some people call this a Cinderella license. This law was amended in 2015 allowing a person to drive to and from their place of employment so they can work. http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/Statutes/TITLE31/31-27/31-27-2.8-1.HTM
Rhode Island Attorneys legal Notice per RI Rules of Professional Responsibility:
The Rhode Island Supreme Court licenses all lawyers in the general practice of law, but does not license or certify any lawyer or attorney as an expert or specialist in any field of practice.