In January 2015, the Rhode Island General Assembly instituted the first law that allowed individuals convicted of a DUI and/or a Chemical Test Refusal to operate a motor vehicle while their license was suspended with a hardship license. This hardship license was discretionary and was only issued to individuals who needed their license to get to and from work. This week, a new law was passed by the General Assembly that will greatly expand eligibility for hardship licenses.

Changes in Judges’ Discretion

  • For a first offense DUI or chemical test refusal, judges will no longer have discretion to grant or deny a hardship license. A judge must issue a hardship license upon request and immediately upon a plea or admission of guilt.
  • However, if an individual within the past ten (10) years has a prior conviction for DUI, chemical test refusal, reckless driving, or reckless eluding, the sentencing judge has the ability to impose a ninety (90) day loss of license prior to the hardship license. A judge will have the same discretion if the current DUI or refusal involves a motor vehicle accident.
  • In cases where a DUI involves a blood alcohol concentration of .15 or above, judges will have the authority to impose a six month (6) suspension prior to allowing one to drive on a hardship license.

Need for a Hardship License Expanded to Include More Than Employment

  • The new law will still require first time offenders to show “need” for a hardship license, but this need has been expanded from employment.
  • Hardship licenses will be granted to those who prove they need to drive to necessary medical appointments, therapy appointments job training, school, or any other valid reason approved in advance by the judge.
  • Individuals will have to submit a sworn affidavit to the judge, detailing their need for a hardship license.

Hardship License Extended to Preliminary Suspensions for Chemical Test Refusals

  • The new hardship license provisions would also extend to preliminary license suspensions stemming from a chemical test or breathalyzer refusal at the Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal.

This law is scheduled to go into effect soon, so if you or a loved one are facing a DUI or chemical test refusal in Rhode Island, call the experienced Rhode Island DUI lawyers at Abilheira Law today to request your consultation.