The amount of alcohol in a driver’s blood determines whether or not he or she can be arrested for driving under the influence in Rhode Island. The state allows a minimal amount of alcohol in a driver’s blood before it constitutes a DWI or Driving While Intoxicated.
Even if drivers never anticipate taking to the roadways after drinking, it can still benefit them to know how DWI in Rhode Island is defined. They can also benefit by learning about what legal penalties go along with this serious criminal and traffic infraction.
DUI in Rhode Island
Rhode Island uses the acronym of DWI instead of DUI as in other states. DWI stands for Driving While Intoxicated. As a per se definition, it applies to drivers who are 21 years and older who have blood alcohol content or BAC levels of 0.08 percent or higher.
The per se definition, which allows law enforcement officers to detain drivers if they can smell the presence of alcohol or witness drivers acting inebriated, also applies to drivers of personally owned vehicles like cars, trucks and motorcycles. It does not extend to drivers of commercial vehicles. Rhode Island has a separate BAC level of 0.04 percent or higher for CDL drivers.
The definition of DWI in Rhode Island for most drivers also includes being under the influence of any alcohol, drug or controlled substance. It similarly involves driving with any amount of a scheduled controlled substance or illegal drug in one’s blood.
Drivers under the age of 21 must abide by the state’s zero-tolerance law. This law says that drivers under 21 cannot drive with a BAC of 0.02 percent or higher. Like adult drivers, they can face any number of penalties that stay on their driving record until they turn 21.
Finally, Rhode Island allows for a DWI to be charged as an aggravated offense. To meet this criteria, the driver must have a BAC of 0.15 percent or higher.
DWI Penalties in Rhode Island
Rhode Island uses a variety of legal penalties that are designed to encourage drivers to avoid getting behind the wheel while they are drunk or high. A first DWI in Rhode Island leads to penalties like:
- Up to one year in jail
- $100 to $400 in fines
- 30 days to 12 months’ license suspension
A second DWI conviction in Rhode Island typically results in punishments like:
- 10 days to one year in jail
- A $400 fine
- License suspension of one to two years
A third DWI conviction leads to:
- One to three years in jail
- A $400 fine
- License suspension of two to three years
Aggravated DWI convictions in Rhode Island are met with harsher penalties. A first-time aggravated DWI garners the offender up to one year in jail, a $500 fine, and a license suspension of three to 18 months.
A second aggravated DWI conviction leads to the driver receiving six to 12 months behind bars, a fine of at least $1000, and a license suspension of two years. A third aggravated DWI conviction results in three to five years in jail, a fine ranging from $1000 to $5000, and a three years’ license suspension.
Everyone convicted of a DWI in Rhode Island, aggravated or not, must also take a court-approved DWI class or finish a treatment program. They also must pay a $500 highway safety assessment fee.
Underage DWI in Rhode Island
Underage DWI offenders also receive penalties that can be difficult for them to accommodate as drivers who are younger than 21. An underage driver convicted of a first-time DWI in this state can receive:
- A fine of $250
- 30 hours of community service
- One to three months license suspension
- Possible court-ordered DWI class or treatment
A second underage DWI in Rhode Island leads to penalties of:
- A $250 fine
- $300 highway safety assessment fee
- 60 hours of community service
- Three to six month license suspension
- Completion of a DWI class or treatment
The underage DWI also stays on the offender’s record until he or she turns 21.
The penalties in Rhode Island for DWI are designed to convince drivers to operate motor vehicles safely. They can be difficult to afford and take time away from one’s home and family. They also can be given to drivers of all ages including those who are under the age of 21.