As a Rhode Island DUI Defense Attorney, I am frequently asked if the possibility exists to obtain conditional driving privileges after being charged with DUI or Refusal to Submit to a Chemical Test. Historically, the unfortunate answer has been no. However, that changed in 2015 when the new Ignition Interlock law went into effect. This Law, found in RIGL 31-27-2.8, now provides for limited driving privileges if convicted of a DUI charge or a Chemical Test Refusal Charge. This limited driving privilege is called a Conditional Hardship License.
Am I Eligible for a Rhode Island Conditional Hardship License?
The Rhode Island Ignition Interlock Law provides explicit criteria for who is eligible to obtain a Conditional Hardship License. The Law allows the sentencing judge or magistrate to “grant the person a conditional hardship license during the period of license suspension.” The license is only valid “for twelve (12) hours per day to get to and from employment” and it shall only be granted “in conjunction with the installation of an ignition interlock device.” Furthermore, the limited privileges “must be set by the sentencing judge or magistrate after a hearing in which the motorist must provide proof of employment status and hours of employment.”
- The Motorist must be “sentenced” by a Judge or Magistrate on a DUI or Refusal Charge;
- The Motorist must have an ignition interlock device installed in their vehicle;
- The Motorist must provide proof of employment status and hours of employment.
What Does a Conditional Hardship License Allow?
- Only allows an individual to drive “to get to and from employment”;
- During a set twelve (12) hour period per day;
- While using an ignition interlock device.
When and How Can I Obtain a Conditional Hardship License on my DUI or Refusal Case?
Unfortunately, individuals are only eligible to obtain a Conditional Hardship License AFTER they are sentenced by a Judge or Magistrate. This means that it can only be obtained when the case is resolved. It is up to your defense lawyer to work out the terms and work to get you the right to drive with a Conditional Hardship License.
Can I Get A Conditional Hardship License During A Preliminary License Suspension?
When an individual is alleged to have refused to submit to a chemical test in Rhode Island, they will likely face what is called a preliminary license suspension at their first court date. This preliminary license suspension is an absolute license suspension. Currently, the Rhode Island Ignition Interlock Law does not provide or allow for Conditional Hardship Privileges during this preliminary license suspension.
What Do I Need to Do to Get a Conditional Hardship License?
While negotiating a resolution of your DUI or Refusal case, your lawyer must work to achieve favorable terms to the end of your case. Part of this negotiation will involve advocating for the Court to grant a Conditional Hardship Privilege under the appropriate circumstances. The granting of Conditional Hardship Privileges is discretionary; meaning that the Judge does NOT have to grant the privilege and makes a determination of the appropriateness of the privilege on a case-by-case basis. To assist your defense lawyer in obtaining a Conditional Hardship License on your behalf, you will need to provide the following documents:
- An “Ignition Interlock Certificate” (which is provided by the ignition interlock service provider);
- A Letter from your Employer documenting your employment status and hours of employment;
- A Written Statement to your Lawyer explaining why a Suspended License will cause you a “hardship”.
What Happens In Court When I Am Seeking A Conditional Hardship License?
In some circumstances, you will enter a plea of guilty or nolo contendre (no contest). After the Court accepts your change of plea, the Court is required to hold a brief eligibility hearing. During the hearing, the Court will typically swear the Defendant/Motorist in under oath and ask a few questions. Some of the typical questions you may face include:
- Did you have an ignition interlock certificate installed? When? Do you have the Ignition Interlock Certificate?
- Where do you work? How long have you worked there? What is your position? What are your typical work hours? Do you have an employment verification letter?
- Why would a suspended license cause you (and potentially your family) a “hardship”? How would a Conditional Hardship License alleviate that hardship?
What Happens After the Court Grants a Conditional Hardship License?
After you enter your plea and the Court is satisfied by the information presented at the Conditional Hardship Hearing, you will need to immediately visit the Rhode Island Division of Motor Vehicles to begin driving with your Conditional Hardship Privilege. You must bring the following documents to present to a Hearing Officer at the DMV:
- Proof of Installation of the Ignition Interlock Device (called an “Ignition Interlock Certificate”);
- Proof of an SR-22 Insurance Policy on your Drivers License (pink copy);
- Court Order that contains the requirements for the Conditional Hardship License, including the authorized hours of operation;
- $100.00 to pay the Ignition Interlock Fee at the Operator Control Division of the DMV;
- $6.50 to pay to update your license to add the Conditional Hardship restriction
What Do You Need to Do After the Hardship Period Ends?
After your period of Conditional Hardship License ends, you will again need to visit Operator Control at the Division of Motor Vehicles in Cranston. For most people, the termination of the Conditional Hardship period leads to a period of restricted driving called the Ignition Interlock Period. If this is the case, you will need to do the following at Operator Control:
- Pay the $351.50 License Reinstatement Fee;
- Pay the $350.00 DUI School Fee and Register for the DUI School;
- Provide proof of your completion of the Court-Ordered Community Service;
Experienced Rhode Island DUI and Refusal Representation
We know that the information described above is overwhelming. We are providing it to you as a starting point for working through the problems you may be facing. Navigating these confusing and complicated laws requires the assistance of an experienced Rhode Island DUI and Refusal attorney. Attorney Matthew Marin has assisted dozens of clients through the Conditional Hardship process, and in-fact negotiated one of the first Conditional Hardship Licenses at the Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal last January 2015. Since then, the process has been streamlined and Attorney Marin can help you navigate the system and get you back on the road as soon as possible. We know that losing your license can be devastating for your work and for your family. Contact us today at 401-228-8271 to discuss your options and begin fighting back.