Rhode Island Drunk Driving Laws

When is a Driver Considered to be Legally Drunk in Rhode Island?

  • Non-commercial drivers age 21+ are considered legally drunk when their blood alcohol level is .08 or more.
  • Drivers of commercial vehicles are legally drunk when their blood alcohol level is .04 percent or greater. In Rhode Island, school bus drivers are commercial drivers.
  • Drivers under 21 are legally drunk when their blood alcohol level is
    .02 or more.

Penalties for Drunk Driving in Rhode Island

  • A driver who commits a first violation with a BAC of at least .08 but less than .10 must pay a fine of $100 to $300 and perform 10 to 60 hours of community service work and/or be imprisoned for up to one year. The offender’s driver’s license will be suspended for 30 to 180 days.
  • A driver who commits a first violation with a BAC of at least .10 but less than .15 must pay a fine of $100 to $400 and perform 10 to 60 hours of community service work and/or be imprisoned for up to one year. The offender will also be required to attend a special course on DUI and/or undergo alcohol treatment. The offender’s driver’s license will be suspended for three to 12 months.
  • A driver who commits a first violation with a BAC of .15 or greater must pay a fine of $500 and perform 20 to 60 hours of community service work and/or be imprisoned for up to one year. The offender will also be required to attend a special course on DUI and/or undergo alcohol treatment. The offender’s driver’s license will be suspended for three to 18 months.
  • A driver who commits a second DUI within five years of the first offense and whose BAC was at least .08 but less than .15 must pay a mandatory minimum fine of $400. The offender will also be imprisoned for 10 days to one year and be required to undergo alcohol treatment. The driver’s license suspension period is one to two years. After completing all terms of the sentence, the judge may require the offender to use an ignition interlock device for one to two years.
  • A driver who commits a second DUI within five years and whose BAC was .15 or more will be imprisoned for six months to one year and fined at least $1,000. The driver’s license suspension period is two years. After completing all terms of the sentence, the judge may require the offender to use an ignition interlock device for up to two years.
  • A driver who commits a third or subsequent DUI within a five-year period and whose BAC was at least .08 but less than .15 will be imprisoned from one to three years and must pay a mandatory minimum fine of $400. The offender will also be required to undergo alcohol treatment. The driver’s license suspension period is one to three years. After completion of all terms of the sentence, the judge may require that the offender use an ignition interlock device for up to two years. The judge also has the discretion to seize the vehicle owned and operated by the violator and have it sold by the state of Rhode Island.
  • A driver who commits a third or subsequent DUI within a five-year period and whose BAC was .15 or greater will be imprisoned for three to five years and fined $1,000 to $5,000. The driver’s license suspension period is three years. Following completion of all terms of the sentence, the judge may require the offender to use an ignition interlock device for up to two years. The judge also has the discretion to seize the vehicle owned and operated by the violator and have it sold by the state of Rhode Island.

Additional Punishment for DUI While a Passenger Under 13 was in the Vehicle

Any person who is 18 or older and who is convicted of DUI while a child under 13 was a passenger in the vehicle at the time of the offense may be sentenced to a term of imprisonment of up to one year.

Penalties for DUI Resulting in Death

A person who is convicted of DUI resulting in the death of another faces the following penalties:

  • For a first violation, the offender will be imprisoned for five to 15 years and fined $5,000 to $10,000. The offender’s driver’s license will be revoked for five years.
  • For a second or subsequent violation within a five-year period, the offender will be imprisoned for 10 to 20 years and fined $10,000 to $20,000. The offender’s driver’s license will be revoked for five years.

Penalties for DUI Resulting in Serious Bodily Injury

A person who is convicted of DUI resulting in serious bodily injury to another faces the following penalties:

  • For a first violation, the offender will be imprisoned for one to 10 years and fined $1,000 to $5,000. The offender’s driver’s license will be revoked for up to two years.
  • For a second or subsequent violation within a five-year period, the offender will be imprisoned for two to 15 years and fined $3,000 to $10,000. The offender’s driver’s license will be revoked for up to four years.

Commercial Drivers

In addition to other penalties that may apply under Rhode Island’s DUI laws, a commercial driver who commits a first DUI while driving a commercial vehicle will have his or her commercial driver’s license suspended for at least one year. If, however, the driver was transporting hazardous materials at the time, the suspension period is at least three years. A commercial driver who commits a second DUI while driving a commercial vehicle will have his or her commercial license revoked for life, which may or may not be reduced to a period of at least 10 years.

Drivers Under 18

A person under 18 who commits a first DUI will be required to perform 10 to 60 days of community service. The juvenile’s driver’s license will also be suspended for six to 18 months. The judge may require the juvenile to attend a special course on DUI. The juvenile may also be required to pay a fine of up to $500.

A person under 18 who commits a second or subsequent DUI is subject to a mandatory driver’s license suspension until he or she reaches 21. The judge may also sentence the juvenile to the Rhode Island Training School for up to one year and/or fine the offender up to $500.

What is Rhode Island’s Liquor Liability Act?

Under this law, licensed drinking establishments can be liable for injuries caused by “negligent” or “reckless” service of alcohol to a minor or to a visibly intoxicated person. Service of liquor is “negligent” if the server knows, or a reasonable person should have known, that the person being served is a minor or visibly intoxicated. In the case of a minor, service of alcohol without a request for identification is evidence of negligence. A claim for negligent service of alcohol cannot be brought by the intoxicated drinker if he or she is 21 or older. The claim can, however, be brought by a minor who was negligently served alcohol and later suffered injury because of intoxication. The claim can also be brought by a third person who was injured as a result of negligent service to a minor or to a visibly intoxicated person.

Licensed drinking establishments can also be liable for “reckless” service of liquor. Service is “reckless” if the server intentionally serves alcohol to a person when the server knows that the individual is a minor or is visibly intoxicated and the server consciously disregards an obvious and substantial risk that serving liquor to that person will cause physical harm to the drinker or to others. Evidence of “reckless” service includes active encouragement of intoxicated individuals to drink substantial amounts of alcohol, service of liquor to a person under 21 with knowledge that the person is under 21, and service of liquor to a person that is so excessive that it creates a substantial risk of death by alcohol poisoning.

Damages under Rhode Island’s Liquor Liability Act may be awarded to compensate for all injuries suffered by the victim. Additionally, punitive damages may be awarded for actions based on reckless service. Any action brought under Rhode Island’s Liquor Liability Act must be brought within three years of the date of the injury.

Criminal Penalties for Furnishing Alcohol to Minors

An adult who furnishes alcohol to a person under 21 is subject to a term of imprisonment of up to six months, a fine of $350 to $1,000, or both for the first offense. For a second violation, the offender faces a term of imprisonment of up to six months, a fine of $750 to $1,000, or both. For a third or subsequent violation, the offender faces a term of imprisonment of up to one year, a fine of $2,500, or both.

Criminal Liability for Selling Alcohol to a Person Under 21

In addition to other penalties that may apply, a server at a licensed drinking establishment who serves a minor is subject to pay a fine of $250 for a first offense. For a second offense within three years, the server is subject to pay a $500 fine. For a third or subsequent violation within three years, the fine is $750.

Need more information on state laws? Learn more about the laws where you live.

Note: Our attorneys are licensed to practice law in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Maryland, and Virginia. This information is not intended to solicit clients for matters outside of the states of Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Maryland, and Virginia, although if you are injured in an accident, we have relationships with other personal injury attorneys and lawyers throughout the United States.

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