Rhode Island drivers are considered to be driving while intoxicated (DWI) when they have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 percent or higher. For commercial drivers, this limit is lowered to .04 percent and .02 percent for drivers under the age of 21. Penalties are increased for passing certain BAC thresholds in excess of .08 percent.
Penalties for a First DWI Offense
A first DWI offense is considered a misdemeanor under all circumstances. If the BAC is between .08 and .15 percent, the fine ranges from $100 to $400, and 10 to 60 hours of community service may be assigned. If the BAC is between .10 and 0.15 percent, a judge may assign up to a year of prison time in place of community service along with a three- to 12-month license suspension. With a BAC of .15 percent or greater, Rhode Island DWI penalties include a fixed $500 fine, a minimum of 20 hours of community service and a possible license suspension of up to 18 months. In all cases, a first offense will require a $500 highway assessment and possible mandatory drunk driving school and treatment.
Penalties for a Second DWI Offense
Rhode Island DWI penalties for a second offense only increase if it is committed within five years of the first offense. In this case, drivers with a BAC of .08 to .15 percent face a $400 fine and from 10 days to one year in prison. Their license will also be suspended for one to two years and a $500 highway assessment will be mandatory. A judge may also order the use of an ignition interlock device for one to two years. Drivers with a BAC of .15 percent or greater face a minimum $1,000 fine, a prison sentence of six months to one year, a two year license suspension and participation in a mandatory treatment program.
Penalties for a Third DWI Offense
Penalties for a third offense can only increase if the previous two offenses were committed in the past five years. In this case, the charge rises to the level of a felony. Penalties include a $400 fine, one to three years in prison and a license suspension of two to three years. Your vehicle may also be confiscated and sold by the state.
Penalties for Refusal to Submit to BAC Testing
BAC test refusal results in an automatic suspension of a driver’s license, but it is not a criminal charge in and of itself. However, the state can still bring a DWI charge based solely on the observations of the officer that pulled you over. If you lose the refusal hearing, you face a penalty of a license suspension of six to 12 months along with a fine, a $500 highway assessment and possible community service. For a first offense, this is still only a civil penalty and not a criminal charge. For a second or greater refusal, the charge becomes a criminal misdemeanor, however, with increased fines and possible jail time.