With the start of the New Year, the General Assembly is considering several pieces of legislation intended to toughen the existing DUI laws in Rhode Island. The new legislation aims to discourage people from getting behind the wheel after drinking by sharply increasing penalties for certain offenses.

Increased Penalties for DUI Resulting in Death or Serious Bodily Injury

Under the new legislation, the penalty for DUI death resulting would increase from 15 years in prison to 30 years in prison. Those found guilty of DUI death resulting would also face a $20,000 fine and could lose their license for up to 10 years.

For those convicted of DUI serious bodily injury, the penalties increase from 10 years in prison to 20 years in prison. Additionally, the fine jumps to $10,000 and the loss of license increases to up to 5 years.

New Crime: DUI Resulting in Injury

Additionally, the intended legislation will create a new crime for DUI resulting in injury. The proposed law would address injuries sustained in DUI related accidents that do not rise to the level of serious bodily injury. Those convicted would be guilty of a felony and could face up to 3 years in prison and a license suspension for up to one year.

Longer “Look Back” Period

The General Assembly will also be considering a new law that extends the “look back” period in Rhode Island for second and third offense DUI’s from 5 years to 10 years. The longer “look back” period is supported by several organizations including the National Highway Safety Administration and Mothers Against Drunk Driving. The extension will shed Rhode Island’s dubious distinction as the only New England state with a “look back” period of less than 10 years.

Will Tougher Laws Discourage Drunk Driving?

According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), Rhode Island “still continues to lag behind the rest of the nation in implementing effective DUI countermeasures.” Although the Rhode Island ACLU has called the data murky, 308 people were killed in accidents involving a drunk driver in Rhode Island from 2003-2012. These numbers earned Rhode Island the reputation for having some of the deadliest alcohol related fatality trends in the country.

In an effort to strengthen Rhode Island’s DUI laws, Attorney General Kilmartin continues to introduce legislation targeting impaired drivers. Whether or not the new laws focused on DUI will be effective in reducing DUI deaths remains to be seen. Currently, the new legislation is under consideration by the Rhode Island House of Representatives. Check back with Abilheira Law periodically as we track this new legislation.