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Rhode Island DUI Laws

Rhode Island takes a hard stance against drunk driving. The state’s stringent laws and penalties are based on age and blood alcohol content (BAC) levels.

The state defines driving while intoxicated (DWI) as any driver with a BAC of 0.08% or higher. The law is less tolerant for drivers under 21 years old who can be charged with DUI – driving under the influence – for a BAC between 0.02% and 0.08%.

A charge of DWI or DUI that results in serious injury or the death of someone is considered a felony.

Under the Implied Consent laws in Rhode Island; if you operate a vehicle in the state you are giving consent to chemical blood alcohol content (BAC) test. If the results of this test show at or above the legal limit you can be charged with a DWI or a DUI. In the case of an accident that results in serious injury or death, law enforcement can deny a driver’s right to refuse a BAC.

Refusing a Chemical test

If you refuse to take a BAC test you will still face penalties under the Implied Consent laws. A first offense can include these penalties:

  • Driver’s license suspension by the RI DMV for 6 months.
  • Community service.
  • Drunk driving school or alcohol treatment program.
  • Fines.
  • Highway safety assessment fee.

Penalties for Refusing a Chemical Test

In addition to the penalties listed below, you also face the possibility of a Highway Safety Assessment fee of $500, a $200 assessment fee for the Department of Health Chemical Testing Program, and possible enrollment in a driving school and/or an alcohol treatment program.

1st offense as an adult (18 years old and over):

  • Fine: $200 to $500.
  • Community Service: 10 to 60 hours.
  • Suspended license: 6 months to 1 year.

1st offense under 18 years old:

  • Fine: $200 to $500.
  • Community Service: 10 to 60 hours.
  • Suspended license: 6 months.

2nd and subsequent offenses for refusing a chemical test include jail time, higher fines, mandatory ignition interlock device, and other serious penalties. These penalties apply to driver’s of all ages.

Penalties for DUI

Those under 21 years old can be charged with “driving under the influence” DUI as they are under the legal drinking age in Rhode Island. This charge is used with underage people who have a BAC of 0.02% and 0.08%. For a first offense the penalties are:

  • Suspended license: 6 to 18 months.
  • Community service: 10 to 60 hours.
  • Highway Safety Assessment: $500.

It is also important to note that transporting alcohol, whether with an open container or not, or simply being in possession of alcohol, is against the law. Either of these charges will cause a suspension of your license even if you are not driving at the time of the charge.

Penalties for DWI

The penalties for a DWI charge can vary greatly and will depend on number of offenses, BAC level, age and whether the charge was the result of an accident or injury. Below is listed the penalties for a 1st offense. 2nd and subsequent offenses within 5 years, or 1st offenses with higher a BAC, can result in lengthier jail time, higher fines, longer license suspension and more community service.

1st offense 21 years old and over – BAC between 0.08% and 0.10%:

  • Fine: $100 to $300.
  • Additional fee: $86.
  • Suspended license: 30 to 180 days.
  • Jail: up to 1 year.
  • Community service: 10 to 60 hours (discretion of the court).
  • Alcohol and/or drug treatment and class on DWI.


1st offense under 18 years old – BAC of 0.08% or higher:

  • Highway Safety Assessment: $500.
  • Community service: 10 to 60 hours.
  • Suspended license: 6 to 18 months.
  • Mandatory participation in a special course on DWI
  • Alcohol and/or drug treatment.

Penalties for DWI Resulting in Serious Injury or Death

DUI charges that are the result of an accident which caused serious injury or death are dealt with very severely in Rhode Island.

1st offense any age – DUI resulting in serious injury:

  • Jail sentence 1 to 10 years.
  • Fine: $1,000 to $5,000.
  • Revoked license: up to2 years.
  • Alcohol and/or drug treatment.

1st offense any age – DUI resulting in death:

  • Jail sentence 5 to 15 years.
  • Fined $5,000 to $10,000.
  • Revoked license for 5 years.
  • Alcohol and/or drug treatment.

Ignition Interlock Device

If the court grants you a Hardship license or requires you to have a Ignition Interlock Device (IID) you will need to take certain steps to meet this responsibility. First you will need to have an IID installed by a company which is state certified. You will most likely need to pay an installation fee and a monthly maintenance fee. You will then need to bring the following to the Division of Motor Vehicles Operator Control office. For a hardship license or a court ordered IID you will need:

  • IID installation certificate.
  • Court order information including hours of operation for hardship license.
  • Proof of insurance (SR-22).
  • DMV Operator Control IID fee of $101.50.
  • Drivers license update with restriction fee $6.50.

For a court ordered IID you will also have to pay reinstatement fees:

  • Driver’s license: $351.50.
  • Registration: $251.59.

Failure to report to the DMV can result in more penalties.

Reinstating Your License

In order to have your license reinstated you will have to contact Operator Control. The office located on the 1st floor at DMV Headquarters at 600 New London Ave, handles all license suspensions as well as driver retraining programs.