Rhode Island DUI Lawyer

Have you been charged with a DUI in Rhode Island? Hire a 7-time Rhode Island SuperLawyers Rising Star Stefanie Murphy

In Rhode Island, whether you are charged with a DWI ticket (driving while intoxicated), DUI (driving under the influence), operating while intoxicated (OWI), or operating under the influence (OUI) – you are being accused of driving or operating a vehicle while impaired by the use of an illegal substance. DWI or OWI charges refer specifically to alcohol impairment with a blood alcohol content of .08 or higher, while DUI or OUI could also mean impairment by prescription or illegal drugs.

Regardless of the substance that has caused your impairment, the consequences of a conviction can be dire. If you find yourself in this predicament, contact the Rhode Island DUI attorney at the Law Offices of Stefanie A. Murphy for help.

Navigate this page

Rhode Island DUI Criminal Penalties

A DUI charge in Rhode Island is subject to two separate proceedings: administrative, by the Department of Motor Vehicles, and criminal, which is handled by the court system.

These are the penalties for an adult’s first DWI in Rhode Island that did not result in injury or death. A prior DUI conviction within the past five years will usually result in enhanced criminal penalties. A court may also require an ignition interlock system as a condition of reinstatement of your license if you have prior convictions.

  • Ten to sixty hours of community service
  • DUI charges that are the result of an accident which caused serious injury or death are dealt with seriously in Rhode Island, with significantly enhanced penalties. These are the penalties for a first offense DUI resulting in an injury or fatality:

    DUI causing serious injury:

    DUI fatality:

    Prior convictions involving injury or death will result in enhanced penalties.

    Hardship License

    If your license has been suspended, and it is your first or second offense, you may be eligible for a conditional hardship license to be able to work, go to medical or therapy appointments, attend school or job training, or go to the grocery store. You would still:

    Having a Rhode Island DUI lawyer to present your case to the judge or magistrate will make it more likely that you will be granted a hardship license and that the hardship license carries the fewest restrictions.

    Defenses to DUI Charges

    Rhode Island DUI attorney Stephanie A. Murphy will conduct a close examination of the manner in which the test was given to determine where the officer may have deviated even slightly from the proper procedure and will raise questions as to the accuracy of the test, based on the age and maintenance of the equipment. Possible defenses include:

    Summary of Rhode Island DUI Offenses:

    DUI Readings: If you agreed to take a chemical test after being stopped and arrested then your case might be charged as a driving under the influence with readings.  These readings fall into two categories.  The first is DUI with a blood alcohol content of .10 to .15 BAC.  The second is .15 or above. The penalties for a first offense range from 3 months to 18-month loss of license, community service, fines, DUI school and or alcohol counseling.    This is a criminal conviction.

    DUI Without Readings: If you refused to submit to a chemical BAC test or for some reason a test was not available or working, then you could be charged with a driving under the influence, BAC unknown. What this means is that the police officer believes you were driving under the influence but there are no “test” results.   The officer would have looked for signs of intoxication and also look to your performance on field sobriety tests in order to form this opinion.

    Almost every time, a person who is charged with DUI BAC unknown is also charged with a refusal to submit to a chemical test.  See refusal section below. This “doubling charging” means that you are fighting the DUI charge in criminal court and the refusal charge in traffic court.

    The penalties for DUI with BAC unknown, first offense ranges from a three to 12-month loss of license, community service, fine, DUI school and or alcohol counseling. This is a criminal conviction.

    Refusal to Submit to a Chemical BAC Test: If you refused to submit to a chemical test at the station or hospital (not the portable breath test on the side of the road) you will most likely be charged with refusal to submit to a chemical test.   In this case, the town/state must prove that there was a reason to stop you, probable cause to arrest you and reasonable grounds to ask you to submit to a chemical test (along with others requirements), and that you refused.

    This refusal charge is heard and prosecuted at the Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal and after the arraignment stage, will be prosecuted by the Department of Attorney General. At the arraignment, the court will decide whether or not a preliminary suspension of your license should occur. If the preliminary suspension is granted, then your license will be suspended while the refusal charge is pending.

    This charge carries a six to twelve-month loss of license, a civil charge, community service, fines and DUI school/alcohol counseling. 

    Driving While Intoxicated: If you are younger than twenty-one and you received a blood alcohol reading of .02 to .08 then you may be charged with driving while intoxicated.

    The DUI Process in Rhode Island: What to Expect

    The Traffic Stop

    A police officer can’t just stop you randomly; at least not legally. However, if the officer has observed certain indications that you might be “under the influence,” or drunk driving, he or she may pull you over. These are some observations that might precipitate a traffic stop:

    Being able to prove that you were pulled over without probable cause may be a defense if you are charged with drunk driving.

    The Field Sobriety Test

    The police officer will ask you if you’ve been drinking, a question to which you should decline to respond (unless the honest answer is “no”), and will usually ask you to submit to a field sobriety test. These tests will typically consist of you being instructed to:

    These tests concern your ability to follow instructions along with your ability to actually do them. You are not legally required to take a field sobriety test in Rhode Island, but you may be arrested because of your refusal. If you are arrested, contact an experienced Rhode Island DUI attorney immediately.

    Breath and Chemical BAC Tests

    You will be asked to blow into a device that will measure your blood alcohol content and/or submit to blood or urine chemical tests. Do you have a legal right to refuse? Yes; you have a Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. The question is whether it will be to your advantage. Because of Rhode Islands Implied Consent law (SECTION 31-27-2.1), obtaining and using a driver’s license means that you agree to be tested for blood alcohol content. You can refuse a breathalyzer, but by law, your license will be administratively suspended. Your refusal can also be presented as evidence against you in court, and while it is possible to defend against a refusal suspension, it is difficult.

    You stand a better chance of keeping your driving privileges and beating the DWI charge if you submit to the breathalyzer, even if you fail. There are numerous defenses that can be raised in your behalf by a Rhode Island DUI attorney who understands the law and has the experience and strategic ability to invalidate the test results and keep you from being convicted on this serious and life-damaging charge.

    What Happens Following a Rhode Island DUI Case?

    After getting pulled over, the officer is assessing the situation and deciding what to do. By speaking and making general observations, the officer may ask you to do some pre-exit tests or ask you out of the car to take field sobriety tests. You do not need to take field sobriety tests, you have a right to politely decline to take them.

    If the point comes when the officer feels like he or she has probable cause to arrest you and places handcuffs on and reads you your rights, you are no under arrest and will be brought to the station.

    All during the time on the side of the road, the ride to the station and at the station the officer is continuing to observe you and will include these observations in the report. Anything you say before, during and after arrest can be used against you.

    At the station, the officer will inform you of your rights for use at the station, give you a phone call and ask if you will submit to a chemical test.

    Just like the police officer using all the information he or she gathers when the DUI lawyers at the Law Offices of Stefanie A. Murphy review the reports, video from the station and anything else she will be looking for all of the problems and issues in your case. These issues range with some examples of:

    If you have seen the police report, do not worry or get overwhelmed about the evidence. Criminal defense attorney, Stefanie Murphy will take all the evidence and one by one try to suppress and take away the evidence they have against you. This is done through filing motions and pre-trial conferences with the town or state that arrested you for the crime.

    Normally, the police department will release you on your promise to appear or a justice of the peace will set bail and you will be given a court date. In some cases, the person is held overnight and brought to court the next morning. The first court appearance is for an arraignment. After the arraignment, you will have several court appearances in criminal court for pre-trial conferences. This is the time that your defense lawyer will conference your case and work to get the case dismissed or amended.

    However, if you refused, you will also have traffic court appearances while also having to make appearances in criminal court for the DUI charge. On the first traffic court appearance for a refusal, the court is able to enter a preliminary suspension of your license. If this occurs, then you will NOT be able to drive from that date on – until your case is resolved. This is one of the reasons why it’s so important to call Attorney Murphy and have her present at every court appearance. She will be able to argue against a preliminary suspension and fight to keep your license or ask the court to allow you to get a hardship license.

    DUI FAQ

    Contact our Dedicated Rhode Island DUI Attorney

    If you have been accused of DWI in Rhode Island, you are facing the possibility of serious disruption to your life, your freedom, your ability to provide for yourself and your family, and a loss of reputation in the community, as well as incurring financial hardship as a result of fines, fees, and other expenses. Our Rhode Island defense attorney can help you if you have been accused or charged with a DUI. Contact us today to learn more.

    Stefanie Murphy and her team of DUI attorneys are licensed to practice in the state of Rhode Island and serve the areas of:

    Substance-impaired driving is illegal and dangerous, and Rhode Island takes drunk driving very seriously. You can lose your driving privileges, which hinders your freedom and your ability to get to work. You’ll also have to pay fines and restitution to anyone whose property or person has been damaged as a result of your impaired driving. It is therefore in your best interests to fight against being convicted and to keep your driver’s license with the help of an experienced and dedicated Rhode Island DUI attorney.

    A recent review from one of our happy clients: “Stefanie went to court and the matter was resolved in our favor!! A great attorney and a nice person too. Perfect. I would recommend her to anyone.” – Client