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What does dui/first offense/bal unk mean in Rhode Island?

Posted by Matthew Marin | Jul 14, 2017 | 0 Comments

Frequently, our DUI Clients have a difficult time making sense of the charges they are facing. The process can be extremely confusing for anyone who has not dealt with it before in part because it involves the use of terminology and abbreviations that the regular person would not have encountered in daily life.

One of the common phrases that can be difficult to understand is “dui/first offense/bal unk.” If you have been charged with DUI in Rhode Island and released from the Police Station, you were given paperwork with provides you notice of your first court appearance. Your first court appearance on a DUI charge is referred to as an arraignment.

The court date notice for your arraignment contains a few pieces of information. It contains information referencing the Police Department that has brought the charge, your name and date of birth, the date, time and location of your first court appearance.

The notice will also contain a reference to the charge or charges that you are facing. Depending on the circumstances leading to your arrest, the notice may say that you are being charged with DUI, DWI, Driving Under the Influence, or it may indicate “dui/first offense/bal unk.”

If the notice indicates that you are being charged with “dui/first offense/bal unk” we can determine a number of different things relative to the police investigation as well as the charges you are facing.

The first part is relatively simple: the dui language means what it says, that the police are alleging that you drove a vehicle while you were under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The last part, “bal unk” tells us that the police are alleging that you drove under the influence of drugs or alcohol to a degree which rendered you incapable of operating a motor vehicle safely. This is different than a so-called readings case in which the police have blood or breath test results which indicate that you were under the influence of alcohol or drugs above the legal limit. The “bal unk” language also tells us that you likely refused to submit to a chemical test. In that case, you will have a second summons directing you to traffic court (or district court for a second or subsequent offense) for an arraignment on a chemical test refusal violation.

Lastly, the middle part of “dui/first offense/bal unk” indicates that the police, at the time of your arrest, are unaware of any DUI convictions on your record in the prior five years. Quite frequently the police do a cursory check of an individuals record the night of the arrest and may miss or fail to identify prior offenses on your record. This initial determination is not binding if the prior offense is brought to the attention to the prosecutor prior to the end of the case. 

In summary, the charge of “dui/first offense/bal unk” indicates that you are being charged with a first offense drunk driving charge and that the police do not have blood or breath test evidence against you. Instead, they intend to proceed with observation evidence of your impaired operation and believe they can prove that you were operating a motor vehicle at a time that you were impaired to a degree that rendered you incapable of safely operating a motor vehicle. 

If you have been charged with drunk driving and have received a court notice indicating “dui/first offense/bal unk” you should contact an experienced DUI attorney immediately. An experienced lawyer will be able to decipher your court paperwork and clearly explain your charges, the legal process that you are facing, and describe in detail how they can help you navigate your difficult situation.

About the Author

Matthew Marin

My name is Attorney Matthew Marin. I have dedicated my career to defending those charged with criminal offenses throughout Rhode Island. If you have been arrested or are under investigation for a criminal offense, we understand that are likely in an unfamiliar situation that can be extremely intimidating and even paralyzing. You may feel as if you do not know where to turn or who to ask for help. Fortunately, you have come to the right place to begin your search for answers and a successful resolution to your situation. We have extensive experience assisting thousands of clients facing drunk driving charges, domestic violence charges, and drug charges throughout Rhode Island.


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Attorney Matthew Marin has been named a Rhode Island SuperLawyer for 9 consecutive years from 2014 thru 2022. Each year, no more than 2.5 percent of the lawyers in Rhode Island are selected by the Research Team at Super Lawyers to receive this honor. Super Lawyers selects lawyers who have attained a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement in their practice area.

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