Rhode Island DUI Laws

Like most states, Rhode Island DUI laws regard drunk driving as anyone driving with a blood-alcohol level of .08 percent or higher. If you’re convicted of drunk driving in Rhode Island, you will face fines, license suspension, and jail time. Rhode Island DUI laws do allow first-time offenders to complete community service in place of jail time, but all convicted drunk drivers are responsible for paying a $500 highway assessment fee.

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Tonya Sisler has a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of South Carolina in Journalism and has worked for 15+ years in management. She has also completed a proofreading certification and is currently a professional writer.

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Brad Larson has been in the insurance industry for more than a dozen years. He started out as a claims adjuster for a national carrier. He has since switched to the agency side of the business. Brad is licensed in all P&C lines.

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Reviewed by Brad Larsen
Licensed Auto Insurance Agent

UPDATED: Oct 29, 2020

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Rhode Island is the smallest of the 50 states, and enjoys a coastal environment with a healthy dose of tourists visiting each year. As far as drunk drivers go, the state stacks up well against the national average for drunk driving fatalities.

However, drunk driving still kills many family members and loved ones each year, and is never a safe idea. Drivers who break the law by driving under the influence will certainly pay for it in Rhode Island.

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Rhode Island DWI Laws

Drivers in the state of Rhode Island may not drive legally with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) at .08% or higher. Every state considers .08% BAC as a standard measurement for “impaired” drivers. A DWI, or driving while intoxicated, also applies to drivers under the influence of cocaine, marijuana, inhalants and other controlled substances. Underage drivers cannot legally drive with a BAC above .02%, and individuals operating commercial vehicles are subject to lower blood alcohol limits.

Penalties for Driving while Intoxicated in Rhode Island

In Rhode Island, individuals convicted of drunk driving may be subject to several penalties, with severity based on the driver’s BAC level at the time of arrest. Drivers have an option of either completing up to one year of jail time, or performing community service for 10 hours up to 60 hours.

Depending on the case, a judge may assign both penalties. Additionally, fines range from $100-$500 for drivers convicted with a BAC higher than .15%. This does not include an additional highway assessment of $500.

The license suspension ranges from one month to six months for drivers convicted with a BAC up to .08%. Drivers with a BAC up to .15 BAC may receive from 3 to 12 months of license suspension, and drivers with a BAC above .15 lose their license from three months, up to 18 months. All drivers must attend a driving while intoxicated course as well.

Penalties for subsequent DWI convictions increase, with third offenders receiving a felony conviction, jail time from 1 year to 5 years, depending on BAC at the time of arrest, and fines from $400 to $5,000. License suspension varies from 2 to 3 years, and an ignition interlock device is required for two years following the driver’s license reinstatement. The driver will need to attend treatment for alcohol or drugs, and depending on the situation, the state may seize the driver’s vehicle.

DWI Accident Statistics for Rhode Island

Rhode Island accident statistics, provided by the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration show the percentage of traffic fatalities due to drivers under the influence was 39% in 2005. The percentage fluctuated over the next two years, and rose to 41% of all traffic fatalities in 2009. However, the methodology for analyzing drunk driving fatalities has been improved to measure the number of fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled. This makes drunken driving fatality rates comparable across states with different population densities. When information is recalculated using this methodology, Rhode Island comes out below the national average for each year from 2005 to 2009 in terms of traffic fatalities involving alcohol-impaired drivers with a blood alcohol limits at or above the .08% legal limit.

SR-22 Requirements in the State of Rhode Island

In Rhode Island, SR 22 insurance is required to be carried by drivers convicted of a DWI. Reckless driving, refusing to take a breathalyzer or similar tests, or having too many points on one’s driving record can also be a reason for a judge to require drivers to carry SR-22 insurance. Rhode Island requires it for three years, although in some cases a judge may require drivers to carry SR-22 insurance for five years. SR-22 insurance can be obtained by filing an SR-22 certificate with the state. The insurance company usually completes this process, and a driver’s license cannot be reinstated without it.

Effects of a DWI on the Cost of Car Insurance

Once a driver is convicted of a DWI, he will carry the conviction on his driving history for the rest of his life in Rhode Island. This will cause insurance companies to place him in a high-risk a driver category, which will substantially increase the rate they charge for insurance. The insurance impact will be greatest in the first few years, with insurance companies placing less weight on the DWI over time.

Drivers who have been arrested for DWI may want to consider hiring an attorney who specializes in drunk driving convictions. An experienced attorney can provide specialized advice and help reduce or eliminate certain penalties, as well as possibly reducing the DWI conviction to something less. This may enable drivers to find lower-cost insurance, or avoid SR-22 insurance altogether.

Rhode Island Car Insurance Companies for High-Risk Drivers

Rhode Island’s insurance rates have been higher than the national average for the last few years, although rates have started to decrease in 2011. Affordable insurance may not seem like a reality to those who have been convicted of a DWI, but it does exist. The easiest way to find the cheapest rates is to get quotes from several insurance companies. This is much easier these days, since many insurance companies maintain a website with an online quote utility. Certain insurance companies like Esurance.com even provide quotes from several different companies at once, which saves a ton of time and can be done at midnight in your pajamas, if you prefer. Progressive Insurance specializes in high-risk insurance, as does The General Car Insurance. These companies will most likely offer substantially lower premiums for drivers who need to carry SR-22 insurance, as well as those who have a large number of points on their record.

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