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First Offense Chemical Test Refusal Charges in RI

For decades, the common wisdom has always been that if you are stopped for DUI and asked to submit to a chemical test (breathalyzer or blood test), that you should always refuse.  Over the years, this advice has been good, has been bad, or has been irrelevant.  As with most “common wisdom,” the logic behind the wisdom can be good but the one size fits all aspect of the idea means that it isn't always right for everyone.

Because this has been such common wisdom for so many years, week after week and month after month we meet with Client's who have been charged with “Refusal to Submit to a Chemical Test” and DUI.  These are individuals who have never been in trouble before and are frightened and unsure about where to turn for help. 

Fortunately, we can help.  Attorney Matthew Marin has been fighting DUI and breathalyzer refusal charges for over 8 years and has handled hundreds of chemical test refusal cases.  It is true that every case is different.  However, it is also almost certainly true that we have seen a case just like yours in the past.  This means we know what to expect, we can explain the process and possible outcomes clearly, and we can put the best defense forward to fight and hopefully defeat your Rhode Island chemical test refusal case.

If you find yourself charged with first offense refusal to submit to a chemical test in Rhode Island, you are in a position that literally thousands of people find themselves every year.  At the Law Offices of Matthew T. Marin, Esq., Inc., we have assisted hundreds of people charged with breathalyzer refusal throughout Rhode Island.  We appear daily throughout the Rhode Island court system representing those charged with breath test refusal and we have experience negotiating and litigating complex and serious cases.  Contact Attorney Matthew Marin for a no obligation consultation regarding your case.  We can be reached 24/7 via telephone at 401-228-8271, via our CONTACT FORM, or via email at [email protected]

What are the penalties for a First Offense Chemical Test Refusal in Rhode Island?

The consequences for even being accused of refusing to submit to a chemical test in Rhode Island are extremely severe.  The penalties include a mandatory license suspension, mandatory community service, hefty fines and costs, mandatory DUI school and potential substance abuse and alcohol treatment and counseling.  The license suspension for a first offense refusal to submit to a chemical test conviction can range anywhere from six to twelve months.  The mandatory community service can go as high as sixty hours and the fines and fees can easily reach a few thousand dollars.

Will I lose my drivers' license for a First Offense Breathalyzer Refusal?

For many charged with a first offense breathalyzer refusal, the most pressing issue they are facing is the potential that they may lose their drivers license.  Rhode Island law permits the arresting police department to submit a sworn report (called an affidavit) at your first chemical test refusal court date.  If the report contains the appropriate information regarding your case from the arresting police department, the Judge must by law issue what is called a “preliminary license suspension.”  This means that your license will remain suspended until the ultimate resolution of your case, guilty or not guilty.

Additionally, if the Court finds you guilty of refusing to submit to a chemical test or you negotiate a guilty plea to the chemical test refusal charge, the Court must suspend your drivers' license (or for out of state drivers, your privilege to operate in Rhode Island) for a minimum of six months to as long as twelve months.  While the mandatory minimum suspension is six months, the Court can impose an extended loss of license if they believe that aggravating circumstances exist within your case that can include, but are not limited to: (1) an accident involved in the arrest, (2) excessive speed or dangerous operation of the motor vehicle, or (3) rude or inappropriate behavior when interacting with the police or other witnesses.

Is There Any Way to Avoid A Mandatory Six Month License Suspension?

In 2015, the Rhode Island Legislature passed a new bill called the Ignition Interlock Law.  When you are charged with a chemical test refusal in Rhode Island, the Ignition Interlock law gives the sentencing Judge the authority to potentially reduce the total license suspension imposed for a conviction.

For those charge with a first offense chemical test refusal charge in Rhode Island, the Ignition Interlock law allows the mandatory minimum six month license suspension to be lowered as follows:

·         Suspension can go AS LOW AS 30 days;

·         Suspension must be followed by driving with the ignition interlock device installed in your vehicle for a period of six months to two years

Additionally, any time that your license was suspended for the “preliminary license suspension” will be credited by the DMV towards your suspension sentence.  The full Ignition Interlock Law can be found here: R.I.G.L. Section 31-27-2.8.

Can I Drive For Work When My License is Suspended for a Chemical Test Refusal?

With the assistance of an experienced chemical test refusal lawyer, there are a few different ways to use the different chemical test refusal statutes to get you back on the road.  One of the lesser known provisions allows the sentencing Judge to permit a Motorist to drive to and from work during the period of his license suspension.  To have this right, the Motorist must have an ignition interlock installed on his vehicle and he must have express written permission in the form of a Court Order issued by the sentencing Judge or Magistrate.

This right to drive to work during your suspension is called a “Conditional Hardship Privilege” and it can only be granted by the sentencing Judge.  This means that it does not apply during the period of preliminary license suspension.  A Motorist can only avail himself of this privilege after he either pleads guilty to the violation or is convicted after trial.

The specific parameters of the express permission must be spelled out.  Most sentencing Judges and Magistrates are not inclined to grant conditional hardship privileges.  It takes a good deal of background work to put the pieces in place to ensure that we can work this type of disposition out for our clients.  It would not be advisable to attempt to get a conditional hardship license on your own.  Definitely seek the representation of a skilled Rhode Island Chemical Test Refusal lawyer.

Will I go to jail if I am convicted of a First Offense Chemical Test Refusal in Rhode Island?

This is a frequently asked and easily answered question.  If you are charged with a FIRST offense refusal to submit to a chemical test charge that is handled at the Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal, you CANNOT be sentenced to jail based on that charge.  A chemical test refusal charge is a civil traffic violation.  The only penalties that can be imposed are those listed in the statute which include fines, license suspension, community service, and DUI school.

What is the difference between a “Chemical Test Refusal” and a “Breathalyzer Refusal” in Rhode Island?

The two terms “chemical test refusal” and “breathalyzer refusal” are commonly used interchangeably in both the court and in non-legal settings.  Technically, a “breathalyzer refusal” is a type of “chemical test refusal.”  Chemical test refusals include charges based on a motorist who refuses to submit to a breath test at the police station and a motorist refuses to submit to a blood draw/test at the hospital.  

Rhode Island First Offense Chemical Test Refusal Law – R.I.G.L. 31-27-2.1

Information and Sources:

Rhode Island General Laws – Rhode Island First Offense Chemical Test Refusal Laws

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