Drivers who violate the DWI or DUI laws in Rhode Island are charged with committing a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the severity of each case. Motorists must learn the difference between DUI and DWI, since these two violations vary based on the driver’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) at the moment the offense occurred.

Licensees who violate the state drunk driving laws by operating a vehicle with a BAC level of .08 or greater will be charged with driving under the influence (DUI). However, certain groups of drivers may be charged with driving while impaired (DWI), which is an offense committed by both adult and minor drivers when they drive in an unsafe manner with a BAC level less than .08.

To learn more about the differences between DUI and DWI charges and the process of reinstating a suspended license with the state Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV), read the sections below.

Rhode Island DUI Citations and Convictions

Motorists who receive a may be penalized with several types of penalties, such as license suspensions, steep fines, and community service and/or jail sentences. Rhode Island law enforcement agencies bring DWI or DUI charges against motorists who fail the chemical breath, blood and/or urine test, which is implemented to determine the level of intoxicants in a driver’s system.

However, you will incur similar consequences for refusing to undergo testing. If the arresting officer proves that you were in violation of the RI impaired driving laws, even without the results of a chemical test, you may be convicted of a DWI or a DUI violation, and the conviction will be entered on your driving record.

Rhode Island Under the Influence Violations and Penalties

The type and severity of the DWI and DUI penalties in Rhode Island administered as a response to violations generally vary based on the driver’s age, number of previous similar convictions and his or her BAC level.

For instance, after getting a DUI or DWI, repeat offenders may be charged for committing a felony, which generally results in fines of up to $5,000 and lengthy license suspensions and prison sentences. Certain aggravating factors may affect the severity of the penalties incurred.

First DUI Offense

First Rhode Island DUI offenses with BAC levels of .08 to .10 generally lead to license suspensions of up to 180 days, maximum fines of $300, 12-month maximum prison sentences and community service sentences of up to 60 hours.

Convictions for first DUI violations with increased BAC levels will result in longer suspension penalties and larger fines, whereas the length of the prison sentence remains the same.

Second DUI Offense

Second DUI convictions in Rhode Island lead to jail sentences of up to 1 year, 2-year license suspensions and $400 fines. Drivers will also be required to install an ignition interlock system for up to 2 years after completing their sentence.

Those who commit a second DUI violation in RI with a BAC level greater than .14 percent will be penalized with an imprisonment sentence of 6 months to 1 year and a $1,000 fine.

Third and Subsequent DUI Offenses

Drivers who violate the Rhode Island DUI laws for the third or subsequent time will be penalized with maximum jail sentences of three years, $400 fines and 3-year license suspensions. Drivers will also have their vehicles seized by the state law enforcement agencies since third offenses are treated as felony violations.

Motorists who violate the state laws for the third time with a BAC level of .15 or higher may even spend 5 years in jail and pay fines of up to $5,000.

Underage DUI

Drivers under the legal drinking age who commit a DUI violation in Rhode Island by driving with a BAC level greater than .07 percent will be required to complete a community service sentence and will have their license suspended. Second DUI offenses committed by young drivers lead to $500 fines, 1-year incarceration sentences and a license suspension that will last until they turn 21 years of age.

Young drivers will be subjected to a DWI arrest if they operate a motor vehicle with a BAC level of .02 to .07 percent as well. Unlike DUI violations, DWI offenses do not lead to jail sentences. Drivers convicted of DWI violations will be required to pay smaller fines and complete shorter license suspensions than those that apply for underage DUI offenses.

Drinking and Driving in Rhode Island

A large number of Rhode Island DUI violations lead to the injury or death of drivers, passengers and pedestrians, as intoxicants effect a driver’s ability to drive safely. The risk of committing an offense increases proportionally with the amount of alcohol and/or drugs present in the driver’s system. The strictness of the DUI and DWI laws in RI is therefore the result of the attempts of law enforcement agencies to deter drivers from drinking and driving.

Drivers who endanger the lives of other individuals are treated as felons and are penalized with very large fines and lengthy prison sentences. For example, motorists whose DUI violation results in the death of another individual may spend up to 15 years in prison and may be required to pay a maximum fine of $10,000.

Rhode Island DUI Attorneys

The process of hiring a drunk driving attorney in Rhode Island is often completed by drivers with DUI and DWI within the state for purposes of minimizing the consequences of charges. Even if the chances of avoiding a conviction are small, an experienced DUI or DWI lawyer can still help plea for reduced fines, license suspensions and jail sentences.

Also, if drivers are unfamiliar with the exact driving laws that have been violated and the potential penalties administered in such cases, they can consult with a lawyer to learn more.

Note: Before engaging the services of a DWI or DUI lawyer in RI, however, you are encouraged to contact several candidates and inquire about their past success with cases similar to yours.

Rhode Island Open Container Laws

Under the impaired driving laws in Rhode Island, drivers are also prohibited from possessing open containers of alcoholic beverages in the passenger area of their vehicles.

To avoid consuming alcoholic beverages and committing a DUI, motorists must place any open and/or closed alcoholic beverage containers in an out-of-reach area of their vehicles, such as the trunk or back seat. Violating this drunk driving law will lead to a DWI arrest.

Reinstating a Suspended Drivers License in Rhode Island

Drivers who are completing a DWI or DUI drivers license suspension in Rhode Island will be unable to operate a motor vehicle until they complete the corresponding license reinstatement procedure. Drivers with a suspended license, however, must first ensure they comply with the following general requirements:

  • Serve the period of license suspension.
  • Obtain proof of a valid vehicle insurance policy.
  • Installed an ignition interlock device (if required).
  • Enroll in a DUI traffic school program (if required).
  • Sign up for an alcohol and/or drug treatment program (if required).

Motorists whose driving privileges were affected by drunk driving charges can reinstate their licenses through the DMV Adjudication Office by providing the necessary documents and paying the applicable reinstatement fees.

Rhode Island Alcohol Awareness Classes

Having to attend Rhode Island DUI classes is one of the consequences that arises from violating the DUI laws. Drivers convicted of a violation will be required to register for the state Alcohol Education Program through the corresponding DMV location in Rhode Island.

The official state DUI course is held at the Community College of Rhode Island (CCRI). Motorists who are attending classes will first be required to complete an alcohol assessment for the purpose of determining whether or not they must attend an appropriate treatment program.

Drivers may be able to reinstate their suspended license even while participating in the program, as long as they pay the course attendance fee.

Rhode Island SR-22 Insurance

Drivers convicted of a DUI violation in Rhode Island will be required to obtain proof of future financial responsibility in the form of the SR-22 insurance certificate. The SR-22 form serves as evidence of a valid DUI insurance in RI, and it must be maintained for 3 years from the date of license reinstatement.

This certificate of insurance is issued by an insurance company upon request from the driver. Motorists who commit another offense during the 3-year period will not be required to file the proof of financial responsibility until they reinstate their license once again.

Rhode Island Laws That Pertain to DUI/DWI

To avoid the severe penalties administered for violating the state driving laws, drivers must refrain from operating a motor vehicle after consuming alcohol and/or drugs. Motorists will be charged with DUI if they drive with a BAC level of .08 percent or greater, regardless of their age. Drivers younger than 21 years old, however, must abide by stricter laws.

Young licensees are at risk of receiving a DWI ticket in RI if they operate their vehicles with a BAC level ranging from .02 to .07 percent. Adult offenders intoxicated with a BAC level of .05 percent and the arresting officer is able to prove that the driver’s ability to operate a vehicle was compromised, then a conviction of DWI may be unavoidable.

Hardship License in Rhode Island

Motorists who are completing a DWI or a DUI drivers license suspension in Rhode Island may be eligible for a hardship license, which will grant them restricted driving privileges. Note that, drivers who have committed a DUI can obtain a hardship license only if they install an ignition interlock device on their vehicles.

Motorists affected by a DUI or a DWI conviction can finalize the process of obtaining a hardship credential through a corresponding DMV office  by completing the following steps:

  • Submit proof of installation of an ignition interlock device.
  • Present the SR-22 form.
  • Submit the court order that outlines the authorized hours of vehicle operation.
  • Pay the applicable ignition interlock and license application fees.

Note: To avoid further fines and penalties, drivers must not violate the terms of their hardship license.

Last updated on Wednesday, March 4 2020.