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Rhode Island Drugged Driving

In Rhode Island, a person is guilty of a DUI if he or she drives while under the influence of drugs, or any controlled substance. In addition, a person who drives with a blood presence of any scheduled controlled substance, as shown by analysis of a blood or urine sample, shall also be guilty of DUI. Id. § 31-27-2(b). However, a registered qualifying medical use patient shall not be considered to be under the influence solely for having marijuana metabolites in his or her system.

In addition to any other penalty prescribed by law, whoever operates any motor vehicle while knowingly having in the motor vehicle or in his or her possession, a controlled substance, shall have his or her license suspended for a period of six (6) months. Id. § 31-27-2.4(a).

Affirmative Defense

The fact that any person charged with violating this section is or has been legally entitled to use alcohol or a drug shall not constitute a defense against any charge of violating this section. Id. § 31-27-2(b).

Implied Consent

  • Any person who operates a motor vehicle within this state shall be deemed to have given his or her consent 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.Id. § 31-27-2.1(a).
  • The penalty for the first refusal of chemical testing is a fine in the amount of two hundred dollars ($200) to five hundred dollars ($500), ten (10) to sixty (60) hours of public community restitution, and the person's driving license in this state shall be suspended for a period of six (6) months to one year. Id. § 31-27-2.1(b)(1). Penalties increase with multiple offenses. Id. §§ 31-27-2.1(b)(2)-(3).
  • If an individual refuses to consent to a chemical test, and a peace officer, has probable cause to believe that the individual was operating a motor vehicle under the influence a chemical test may be administered without the consent of that individual provided that the peace officer first obtains a search warrant authorizing administration of the chemical test. The chemical test shall determine the amount of the alcohol or the presence of a controlled substance in that person's blood or breath. Id. § 31-27-2.9(a).
  • Evidence that the defendant had refused to submit to the test shall not be admissible unless the defendant elects to testify. Id. § 31-27-2.1(c)(1).

Penalties

  • First offense with controlled substance present in blood - fine of not less than one hundred dollars ($100) nor more than three hundred dollars ($300); required to perform ten (10) to sixty (60) hours of public community restitution; possible imprisonment for up to one year; offender may be required to attend a special course on driving while intoxicated or under the influence of a controlled substance; driver's license shall be suspended for thirty (30) days up to one hundred eighty (180) days. Id. § 31-27-2(d)(1)(i).
  • First offense while under the influence of a controlled substance - fine of five hundred dollars ($500); offender required to perform twenty (20) to sixty (60) hours of public community restitution; possible imprisonment for up to one year; driving license shall be suspended for a period of three (3) months to eighteen (18) months; the sentencing judge shall require attendance at a special course on driving while intoxicated or under the influence of a controlled substance and/or alcohol or drug treatment for the individual. Id. § 31-27-2(d)(1)(iii)
  • Second offense with controlled substance present in blood (w/i 5 years) - mandatory fine of four hundred dollars ($400); driving license shall be suspended for a period of one year to two (2) years; the individual shall be sentenced to not less than ten (10) days nor more than one year in jail - not less than forty-eight (48) hours of imprisonment shall be served consecutively; the sentencing judge shall require alcohol or drug treatment for the individual; judge may prohibit that person from operating a motor vehicle that is not equipped with an ignition interlock system for a period of one year to two (2) years. Id. § 31-27-2(d)(2)(i),
  • Second offense while under the influence of a controlled substance (w/i 5 years) - mandatory imprisonment of not less than six (6) months nor more than one year; mandatory fine of not less than one thousand dollars ($1,000); mandatory license suspension for a period of two (2) years from the date of completion of the sentence imposed under this subsection. Id. § 31-27-2(d)(2)(ii).
  • Third or subsequent offense with controlled substance present in blood (w/i 5 years) felony - mandatory fine of four hundred ($400) dollars; offender's driving license shall be suspended for a period of two (2) years to three (3) years; offender sentenced to not less than one year and not more than three (3) years in jail - not less than forty-eight (48) hours of imprisonment shall be served consecutively; the sentencing judge shall require alcohol or drug treatment for the individual, and may prohibit that person from operating a motor vehicle that is not equipped with an ignition interlock system for a period of two (2) years following the completion of the sentence; the sentencing judge may have vehicle owned and operated by the violator seized and sold, with all funds obtained by the sale to be transferred to the general fund. Id. §§ 31-27-2(d)(3)(i),(iii).
  • Third or subsequent offense while under the influence of a controlled substance (w/i 5 years) - mandatory imprisonment of not less than three (3) years nor more than five (5) years; mandatory fine of not less than one thousand dollars ($1,000) nor more than five thousand dollars ($5,000); mandatory license suspension for a period of three (3) years from the date of completion of the sentence imposed; the sentencing judge may have vehicle owned and operated by the violator seized and sold, with all funds obtained by the sale to be transferred to the general fund. Id. §§ 31-27-2(d)(3)(ii),(iii).

Other Penalties & Penalty Enhancers

  • Any person over the age of eighteen (18) who is convicted for operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs, while a child under the age of thirteen (13) years was present as a passenger in the motor vehicle, at the time the offense was committed, may be sentenced to a term of imprisonment of not more than one year. Id. § 31-27-2(d)(4)(ii).
  • Any person convicted of a violation under this section shall pay a highway assessment fine of five hundred dollars ($500). Id. § 31-27-2(d)(5)(i).
  • If the person convicted of violating this section is under the age of eighteen (18) years - for the first violation he or she shall be required to perform ten (10) to sixty (60) hours of public community restitution; offender's driving license shall be suspended for a period of six (6) months, up to eighteen (18) months; the sentencing judge shall also require attendance at a special course on driving while under the influence of a controlled substance and/or drug education; possible highway assessment fine of no more than five hundred dollars. Id. § 31-27-2(d)(6)(i).

Sobriety Checkpoints

In Rhode Island, sobriety checkpoints have been found illegal under the state Constitution.

  • Although federal constitution has similar construction, states are free to afford a greater degree of protection to citizens. Nondiscretionary sobriety checkpoints, even those deemed to be constitutional under Federal law, violate Rhode Island Constitution for want of probable cause or reasonable suspicion. Primental v. Rhode Island, 561 A.2d 1348 (1989).

Case Law

State v. DelBonis, 862 A.2d 760 (2004) -- When prosecuting DUI cases, state bears the burden of proving each and every element necessary beyond a reasonable doubt.

State v. DiCicco, 707 A.2d 251 (1998) -- Absent a blood alcohol test which exceeds DUI per se level, conviction may be sustained if other evidence establishes beyond reasonable doubt that person was under influence of intoxicating drugs or any controlled substance to degree which rendered him incapable of safely operating vehicle.

State v. Capuano, 591 A.2d 35 (1991) -- The Legislature, in removing the actual physical control language from the section, intended that more than simple possession of a motor vehicle was necessary to constitute operating or driving.

Per Se Drugged Driving Laws

Rhode Island has a zero tolerance per se drugged driving law enacted for cannabis and other controlled substances. However, a registered qualifying medical use patient shall not be considered to be under the influence solely for having marijuana metabolites in his or her system.

Violating the law is punishable by up to 12 months in jail upon conviction for a first offense.