Rhode Island is a very small state. This means that individuals frequently cross in and out of Rhode Island in the daily travels. It is common for us to represent Clients who have run into trouble before outside the State of Rhode Island. Due to the fact that each State maintains their own set of criminal and drunk driving laws, trying to determine whether a prior run-in with the law constitutes a "prior offense" under the Rhode Island DUI law can be more difficult that it seems.
States share information regarding criminal and traffic offenses through an Interstate Compact. The Compact requires that each state share criminal record and traffic record information with other states. If requested, this information will be transmitted in the vast majority of the cases. However, oftentimes a prosecutor or the police may not seek out such information and therefore fail to uncover information that could be used to enhance charges or penalties in your Rhode Island DUI case.
If you received a DUI charge in another state, it MAY constitute a prior offense for purposes of enhancing or upgrading your Rhode Island DUI charge to a second or third offense drunk driving charge. If you have been charged with an enhanced or upgraded Rhode Island DUI charge based on an out-of-state DUI conviction, can you file a Motion to have the charge reduced or to exclude evidence of the prior DUI? The answer could by yes.
The first thing to look for is the age of the prior offense. If the date of conviction is more than 5 years ago, you cannot be charged with a second or third offense based on this conviction. The look-back period for Rhode Island DUI charges is 5 years. The prior offense, if over 5 years old, can be used to enhance penalties and in sentencing but it cannot be used to charge a greater offense.
Next, the Rhode Island DUI law very specifically requires that the State at trial present evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the Defendant had been previously "convicted" of a DUI charge within the past 5 years. The use of the word "conviction" complicates the matter further. Unlike Rhode Island, many states provide alternative sentencing options to first time DUI offenders. In many cases, these alternative dispositions do not result in a criminal "conviction" for DUI under the law of those states. Therefore, depending on the precise outcome of your out-of-state DUI charge, it may or may not legally constitute a prior "conviction" to satisfy the Rhode Island DUI law.
Facing A Rhode Island DUI Charge with a Prior MA OUI Conviction?
The two States that we have the most extensive experience dealing with prior drunk driving offenses are Massachusetts and Connecticut, our bordering neighbors. With respect to MA, the MA OUI (operating under the influence) are much different than Rhode Island's DUI law. This makes for a very tricky interpretation of what constitutes a prior offense. Typically, a first time OUI offender would receive the alternative disposition 24D Program which would include a continuance without a finding under the MA OUI law as part of a plea bargain. If the continuance without a finding was successfully completed, the case would be dismissed by the Probation department at the conclusion of the sentence. Therefore, in our legal opinion, 24D dispositions on first offense OUI charges in MA do not constitute a prior offense under the Rhode Island DUI law.
However, if an individual went to trial and was found guilty of a MA OUI charge, the sentence he or she received after that guilty finding could constitute a prior offense under the Rhode Island DUI statute.
Facing A Rhode Island DUI Charge with a Prior CT DUI Conviction?
Like Massachusetts, the State of Connecticut offers first time offenders an alternative program known as AEP (Alcohol Education Program). This program, if successfully completed, would result in a dismissal of your Connecticut DUI charge. Therefore, if you were previously charged with DUI in Connecticut and you successfully completed the Alcohol Education Program, that offense cannot be used to upgrade your Rhode Island DUI charge. If you have a question about a prior Connecticut DUI offense, contact us today for experienced legal advice.
Were you charged with DUI in another state and now you're facing a DUI charge in Rhode Island? Let Attorney Marin examine your case and situation and see if you have been overcharged or are possibly facing a mandatory jail charge in RI. This is a highly technical question and can only be answered accurately by a qualified lawyer, who has all of the information.