JUST THE FAQS
Is the violation of Rhode Island's traffic laws a criminal offense? Generally no. An adjudication of a violation of the traffic laws is generally considered a civil violation of the law and does not involve criminal sanctions. There are, however, certain violations of the traffic laws that can result in criminal sanctions such as probation or incarceration. These include but are not limited to driving under the influence of liquor or drugs, driving without a license, leaving the scene of the accident, or reckless driving. Certain traffic infractions can be very serious and result in a felony conviction. Therefore, it is extremely important to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney, such as Attorney Pepe, to mount a vigorous defense.
What are the consequences of a civil traffic violation? Depending on the violation the consequences range from a minor monetary fine to significant fines and even loss of the driving privilege for a period of time. Also, traffic violations can cause your insurance premium to rise, and the accumulation of a poor driving record. And, if you have a commercial license, a traffic violation can have the serious consequence of affecting your employment. If you have been cited with a violation and are unsure of the consequences call my office for a free consultation.
Generally, in Rhode Island what are the fines and penalties for a traffic violation? Rhode Island traffic ticket fines vary by violation, but each violation’s fine costs the same throughout the state. Currently, most traffic tickets are $75. This includes moving violations such as following too closely, not using a turn signal, and eluding a traffic light. Speeding tickets, however, are higher. Speeding up to 10 miles over the posted limited costs $85, and 11 miles or more over costs a minimum of $195 with a $10 fine for each mile over. The traffic ticket should include the exact fine; if it doesn’t, contact your Ticket Tribunal or Municipal Court. Also, there are court costs and other surcharges which typically are the same throughout the State, and at this time expect to pay $35.00.
I have a very good driving record and have been issued a traffic citation can I get it dismissed because of my good driving record? Rhode Island has a good driving statute which allows a motorist to request a hearing for dismissal of the violations if the motorist had a motor vehicle operator's license for more than three (3) years and the traffic violations are his or her first violations within the preceding three (3) years. Not all violations may be dismissed under this statute. See R.I.G.L. § 31-41.1-7 at http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/Statutes/TITLE31/31-41.1/31-41.1-7.HTM.
If I am stopped by the police in Rhode Island for driving under the influence of alcohol should I submit to a breathalyzer? Pursuant to Rhode Island law, every person who operates a motor vehicle within Rhode Island has given his or her consent to submit to chemical tests of his or her breath, blood, and/or urine for the purpose of determining the chemical content of his or her body fluids or breath. This consent is subject to the officer having probable cause to make the stop; which requires that the officer reasonably suspects the driver is operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. This law, however, would be subject to the recent United States Supreme Court decision that held that the police must generally obtain a warrant before subjecting a drunken-driving suspect to a blood test. See Missouri v. McNeely. 133 U.S. 1552 (2013) at http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/cert/11-1425. If a motorist in Rhode Island, however, unlawfully refuses to submit to a chemical test, this is considered a civil traffic violation. The problem is that the sanctions for a refusal to submit are more severe than the crime of driving under the influence in that a refusal carries a longer mandatory loss of license. And, if a motorist refuses to submit to a breathalyzer in a drunk driving case, it is very difficult for the State to prove its case of driving under the influence because the tests used to determine sobriety are easily subject to attack. Thus, the question for the motorist becomes whether or not he or she wants to avoid a criminal conviction or wants to face a longer period of loss of license by refusing to submit.
What is the blood alcohol level in the bloodstream that results in a violation of Rhode Island's driving while intoxicated statute? The state defines driving while intoxicated as any driver with a BAC of 0.08% or higher. The law is less tolerant for drivers under 21 years old who can be charged with DUI - driving under the influence - for a BAC between 0.02% and 0.08%.
What are the penalties in Rhode Island for driving under the influence and refusal to submit to a chemical test? The penalties for driving under the influence are stated in R.I.G.L. § 31-27-2 which can be found at http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/statutes/title31/31-27/31-27-2.HTM. The penalties for refusal to submit to a chemical test are stated in R.I.G.L. § 31-27-2.1 and can be found at http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/statutes/title31/31-27/31-27-2.HTM. It is important to note that the penalties increase for each subsequent violation of either statute. You must retain an experienced attorney, like Attorney Pepe, if you have been charged with these offenses as they carry very serious sanctions. Please contact my office for a free one-half hour consultation if you have been cited with a violation of these statutes.