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Will the jury know I refused a breath test at my Rhode Island DUI trial?

Posted by Matthew Marin | Jul 18, 2017 | 0 Comments

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.

About the Author

Matthew Marin

Attorney Matthew T. Marin is a highly skilled criminal defense lawyer with an outstanding track record in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. With expertise in DUI/DWI, drug offenses, domestic violence, and white-collar crimes, he is dedicated to providing personalized and effective representation for his clients. A "Rising Star" by Super Lawyers and a member of the National College for DUI Defense and the National Trial Lawyers Top 100, Attorney Marin is committed to staying current with the latest legal developments and giving back to his community through pro bono work.


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Attorney Marin Named A SuperLawyer for Ten Consecutive Years 2014-2023

Attorney Matthew Marin has been named a Rhode Island SuperLawyer for 10 consecutive years from 2014 thru 2023. 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.

Rhode Island Members of the National College for DUI Defense

Attorneys Matthew Marin and Kensley Barrett are both Rhode Island General Members of the National College for DUI Defense. Members represent some of the most experienced and cutting edge DUI defense attorney's throughout the Country. Nationwide, DUI laws are extremely complex and constantly changing and the College facilitates the exchange of innovative defenses throughout the Country.