In Rhode Island, if your DUI case heads to trial the Prosecution will not be able to tell the jury that you refused to submit to a breath test. While you can be cited for refusing to submit to a chemical test, the Rhode Island DUI law specifically prohibits the Prosecution from using this evidence against you at trial with some limited exceptions.
While every motorist impliedly consents to submit to a chemical breath test when they operate a motor vehicle on the roads of the State of Rhode Island, the Rhode Island DUI law makes clear that there is a distinction between the prosecution of a criminal DUI charge and the prosecution of a civil chemical test refusal charge. Rhode Island General Law Section 31-27-2(c)(1) provides that “evidence that the defendant had refused to submit to the test shall not be admissible unless the defendant elects to testify.”
This means that in a trial the prosecution cannot point to the fact that the motorist refused to submit to a chemical test as a basis for proving and concluding that the motorist is guilty of driving under the influence. This general proposition is true so long as the motorist does not testify at the trial. However, if the motorist elects to testify at the DUI trial, the Prosecution is then permitted to question the motorist about why he refused to submit to the chemical test. Once that questioning has taken place, the Prosecution can then lawfully argue that the motorist's refusal to submit to the chemical test is evidence of his guilt.
If a jury asks during deliberations if the motorist had taken a breath test, the Judge must order the jury only to consider the evidence it has been presented. This can often make it a difficult decision for a motorist facing trial on a Rhode Island DUI charge. They must weigh the damage that could be done by revealing to the jury that they had been asked to take a breath test and refused it against the negative consequences that could possibly flow from the motorist not testifying in his own defense. While the jury is not supposed to hold that fact against the motorist, the jury is the sole arbiter of whether the case has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
If you are facing a Rhode Island DUI charge, contact Attorney Matthew Marin for experienced and knowledgable legal advice and representation. Schedule a no obligation DUI defense strategy session to review your case options and hear how Attorney Marin can assist you with your DUI case.