If an officer stops you for suspicion of driving under the influence of an intoxicating liquor in Rhode Island, he or she has a duty to the people to administer a chemical test. You, as a driver in the state, have a duty to comply. The state refers to this obligation as “implied consent,” which means that by merely choosing to operate a vehicle on public roads, you have given your consent to a breath or chemical test. Refusing to comply with the officer’s request is essentially a breath of contract and therefore comes with consequences.
According to the Rhode Island Bar Association, the consequences for a complied consent violation fall into two categories: Administrative and criminal. Administrative penalties are mandatory, and a Traffic Tribunal Judge or Magistrate cannot waive or reduce them. The law mandates the following punishments for first-time offenders:
- A highway assessment fee of $500
- A fine of between $200 and $500
- A health assessment fee of $200
- License suspension of between six and 12 months
- 10 to 60 hours of community service
- Required attendance at a special course for those who have a DUI/DWI conviction or a drug treatment program
Though the law mandates administrative penalties, it does not require criminal penalties. However, police departments can use their own discretion when deciding whether or not to pursue criminal remedies. Some departments choose to press charges for a DUI/DWI even without evidence of a breath or chemical test. Others may prosecute both administratively (for refusal) and criminally (for driving under the influence).