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A chemical test refusal is a serious charge and can have a tremendous impact on your reputation, your career and your future. If you have been charged with refusing a chemical test in Rhode Island, you are facing harsh penalties including substantial fines, a lengthy loss of license, community service, alcohol or drug counseling, increased insurance rates, and installation of an ignition interlock device.

Our experienced attorneys can guide you through this complex and confusing area of law to ensure your rights are protected every step of the way. We take time to fully inform you of your legal options and work with you to create an aggressive defense. With the implementation of Rhode Island’s new DUI laws in 2015, it is crucial that you have a defense team who has a firm grasp of the changes and can help you navigate the process of obtaining a hardship license.

Need immediate legal counsel? Contact our experienced Rhode Island breathalyzer refusal team today at (401) 245-5100.

What Is a Chemical Test Refusal?

After being stopped by police for suspicion of DUI, most drivers are asked to complete a series of field sobriety tests (FSTs). Upon failing those field sobriety tests, police will then ask drivers to submit to a chemical test. This test can either be a breathalyzer or a blood test to test for the presence of alcohol and/or drugs in your system. If you refuse to submit to a chemical test, you will automatically be charged with a refusal.

Should I Refuse a Breathalyzer in Rhode Island?

A common question often asked of our Rhode Island breathalyzer refusal defense lawyers is: “Should I refuse a breathalyzer in Rhode Island?” Unfortunately, the answer to this question depends largely on the client and their particular circumstances. While you should always contact a seasoned lawyer to evaluate your individual case, you can find helpful general information below.

However, there are certain situations you should always consider refusing a chemical test. They are summarized below.

Circumstances in which you should consider refusing a chemical test:

  • If you are facing your first DUI and first refusal, it is usually advisable
    to refuse the test.

    • A first offense refusal is a civil infraction and can result in a violation
      on one’s driving record.
    • A first offense DUI is a misdemeanor, which could result in a criminal
      conviction.
  • If you have been convicted of a DUI within the past five years
    you should refuse a breathalyzer.

    • A first offense refusal charge will carry lighter penalties than a second
      offense DUI charge.
  • If you were in an accident and injured or killed someone,
    you should refuse a chemical test.

    • The refusal penalties will be less severe than a DUI resulting in death
      or personal injury.
  • If you are facing a first offense DUI and first offense refusal, and a criminal conviction could lead to the loss of your employment and/or
    housing, you should refuse a chemical test.

In certain situations, you should not refuse a chemical test. For example, if you have been convicted of refusal within the past five years, you should submit to a chemical test. If you receive a second or third offense refusal within a five-year period, it could result in mandatory jail time and several other harsh penalties.

What Else Should I Know?

Other factors to take into consideration when deciding whether or not to submit to a chemical test:

  • If you decide to refuse, your license will be automatically suspended at your arraignment, unless you seek a hardship license.
  • If you decide to “blow” and you fail, you will be charged criminally
  • with a DUI. The penalties will depend on your blood alcohol level.
  • Your financial situation: a refusal tends to have higher fines and fees than a DUI.

If you are facing a breathalyzer refusal charge in Rhode Island, call the skilled Rhode Island Breathalyzer Refusal Defense attorneys at Abilheira Law, LLC for a free and confidential consultation. Our legal team can guide you through the refusal process, explain your legal options, and prepare an aggressive defense on your behalf.

Call us and tell us about your DUI charges in a free case evaluation today!

What Are the Penalties for a Chemical Test Refusal?

Before you decide to refuse a breathalyzer or a blood test, you should be aware of the harsh penalties you will face upon conviction. The penalties for a breathalyzer and a blood test vary, as a blood test refusal may not be punished criminally, while a breathalyzer refusal can be punished criminally.

Breathalyzer Refusal Penalties in Rhode Island

First offense breathalyzer refusal

  • Civil offense
  • License suspension for 6 months to 1 year
  • Fine of $200 to $500
  • 10 to 60 hours of community service
  • Driving school and/or alcohol treatment program
  • Possible ignition interlock device

Second offense breathalyzer refusal within five (5) years

  • Misdemeanor (criminal) offense
  • Up to 6 months in jail
  • License suspension 1 to 2 years
  • $600 to $1,000 fine
  • 60 to100 hours of community service
  • Mandatory alcohol or drug treatment
  • Mandatory ignition interlock device

Third or subsequent offense breathalyzer refusal within five (5) years

  • Misdemeanor (criminal) offense
  • Up to 1 year in jail
  • License suspension for 2 to 5 years
  • $800 to $1,000 fine
  • 100 hours of community service
  • Mandatory alcohol or drug treatment
  • Mandatory ignition interlock device installation
  • Prior to license reinstatement, a hearing is held to determine why your license should be reinstated.

Blood Test Refusal Penalties in Rhode Island

First offense blood test refusal

  • Civil offense
  • License suspension for 6 months to 1 year
  • Fine of $200 to $500
  • 10 to 60 hours of community service
  • Driving school and/or alcohol treatment program
  • Possible ignition interlock device

Second offense blood test refusal within five (5) years

  • Civil offense
  • License suspension of two (2) to three (3) years
  • Fine of $800 to $1,000
  • Eighty (80) to one hundred (100) hours of community service
  • Alcohol and/or drug treatment program
  • Mandatory ignition interlock device

Third or subsequent offense blood test refusal within five (5) years

  • Civil offense
  • License suspension of three (3) to five (5) years
  • Fine of $1,000 to $1,500
  • Minimum of one hundred (100) hours of community service
  • Alcohol and/or drug treatment program
  • Mandatory ignition interlock device
  • Prior to license reinstatement, a hearing is held to determine why your license should be reinstated.

In addition to the penalties listed above, you will be required to pay certain mandatory fees: a highway assessment fee of $500, a Department of Health fee of $200, and a hearing fee of $35.

If you are facing a blood test refusal or a breathalyzer refusal in Rhode Island, be sure to reach out to the skilled Rhode Island lawyer at Abilheira Law, LLC for a free and confidential consultation.

Want to learn more about what our Rhode Island DUI law firm can do for your refusal case? Call our firm today at (401) 245-5100!

Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Breathalyzer Refusals in Rhode Island

Can I Be Charged with a DUI and Chemical Test Refusal in Rhode Island?
Yes. It is common for Rhode Island police officers to charge individuals with both a civil chemical test refusal and also a DUI. In Rhode Island, if you refuse a breathalyzer or blood test, you can be charged with both DUI BAC Unknown and chemical test refusal. While it might seem harsh to be charged with both offenses, in some situations it can actually give your defense attorney tremendous bargaining power because a plea to one offense will usually lead to the dismissal of the other.

What is the Difference Between Refusing a PBT and a Breathalyzer?
A PBT or portable breath test is administered on the side of the road by an officer. This device registers “mouth alcohol” and not “blood alcohol” so it is inherently unreliable. Therefore, PBT evidence is usually inadmissible in Rhode Island. However, you can be charged with refusing a PBT, although the penalty is just an $85.00 civil violation- similar to a speeding ticket.
A breathalyzer is actually a chemical test, administered by a trained professional at the police station. These machines are regulated by the Rhode Island Department of Health and are certified for accuracy. It is when you refuse this test that you can be charged with a “chemical test refusal.”

Can I Be Asked to Take Both a Breath Test and a Blood Test?
Yes, police officers can ask individuals suspected to be under the influence of alcohol to submit to both a breath test and blood test. Usually, most officers will ask motorists to submit to a breathalyzer. However, if the individual does not register alcohol content, officers may suspect that drugs are in the person’s system. They might then ask for a blood test. You might also see officers ask for a blood test if the motorist was involved in an accident and is transported to the hospital rather than the police station.

What are my Rights When Asked to Take a Chemical Test?
In Rhode Island, you are given two sets of rights when you are suspected of a DUI. The first is given at the scene. These are listed below from an officer’s pre-printed card. The second set of rights is given to motorists at the police station/hospital, depending on the situation. It is after reading these rights, a motorist must then agree to take a chemical test or refuse. A sample rights form is listed below.

rights for use at scene

How Long Does A Refusal Stay on Your Record?
Under Rhode Island law, § 31-41.1-10, all alcohol-related traffic violations, including breathalyzer test refusals, shall be automatically expunged from one’s driving record five years from the date of the conviction. Note a first offense refusal will not appear on a criminal record because it is a civil violation. However, because a second and subsequent chemical test refusal charge is a criminal offense, it will appear on a criminal background check. In order to remove it from one’s record, they would need to file a motion to expunge in District Court and be eligible for expungement.

If you have been accused of a chemical test refusal, contact our experienced Rhode Island chemical test refusal lawyer today. If you have questions on whether you should refuse a breathalyzer, do not hesitate to contact our office. Our Rhode Island Chemical Test Refusal attorney is available to you 24/7, (401) 245-5100.