Should I Refuse a Breathalyzer in RI?

A common question often asked of Rhode Island breathalyzer refusal lawyers and Rhode Island DUI lawyers is: “should I refuse a breathalyzer in RI?” Unfortunately, the answer to this question depends largely on the client and their circumstances.  You should always contact a Rhode Island breathalyzer refusal lawyer to evaluate your individual case.  However, the general information provided below, may help you answer this question if you ever find yourself suspected of a DUI.

In Rhode Island, if you refuse a chemical test, whether a breathalyzer or blood test, you will be charged with both Driving Under the Influence BAC Unknown and a 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 usually will lead to the dismissal of the other.

In these circumstances you should consider refusing a chemical test:

  • If you are facing your first DUI and your first refusal, it is usually advisable to refuse the chemical test.
    • A first offense refusal is a civil infraction it is handled at the Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal and a guilty finding will result only 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.

In certain situations, you should not refuse a chemical test.

  • If you have been convicted of a refusal within the past five years, you should not refuse a breathalyzer.
    • A second or third offense refusal within a five year period will result in mandatory jail time and several other harsh penalties.

Other factors to take into consideration when making the decision on whether to submit to a chemical test:

  • If you decide to refuse a chemical test, your license will be suspended automatically at your arraignment.
  • 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 in Rhode Island, call the skilled Rhode Island breathalyzer refusal lawyers at Abilheira Law for a free and confidential consultation.  Our experienced attorneys will guide you through the refusal process, explain your legal options and prepare an aggressive defense.