If a police officer has reasonable grounds to believe that you are operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of an intoxicating liquor, he/she may ask you to perform certain tests, known as field sobriety tests, to determine whether you are actually under the influence of an intoxicating liquor. The field sobriety tests vary in number and kind and each police department favors certain tests over others. The standardized field sobriety tests consist of the “oneleg stand” test, the “walk and turn” test, and the “horizontal gaze nystagmus” test. After completion of the field sobriety tests, the police officer may, based upon his or her observations, arrest you for driving under the influence, advise you of your constitutional rights and ask you to submit to a chemical test. Most police departments in Rhode Island use a breath test, although the police actually have the option of giving you either a breath test, a urine test, or a blood test. Under Rhode Island law, you have the right to refuse to take any of the chemical tests.
In Rhode Island, anyone who operates a motor vehicle is deemed to have given his/her IMPLIED CONSENT to take a chemical test if a police officer reasonably believes that person is driving under the influence of an intoxicating liquor. The following administrative as opposed to criminal, penalties will be imposed after a hearing if you refuse to take a chemical test and are a first time offender:
A. a minimum fine of $200;
B. a highway assessment fee of $500;
C. a criminal/juvenile justice information system’s fee of $147;
D. 6 Months to 1 Year loss of driver’s license;
E. 10 to 60 hours of community service; and
F. attendance at a special course for those convicted of driving while intoxicated.
In addition, after the suspension period has expired you will have to pay a reinstatement fee and additional assessments prior to license reinstatement. The administrative penalties are mandatory and cannot be suspended or reduced by an administrative judge. There are further and stricter penalties for subsequent violations for the same offense.
Most police departments use breath testing equipment to test the amount of alcohol in a person’s blood. The machines test the amount of alcohol a person has in his or her lungs, and make a mathematical computation to convert breath alcohol to blood alcohol. If you agree to take the test the police will have a certified breath test operator utilizing certified breathtesting equipment. The breath test consists of two phases, that is, two separate readings are taken at least 30 minutes apart. If your bloodalcohol content (BAC) level is .10 or greater, the police have strong rebuttal evidence of your guilt of driving under the influence. At trial, the court is allowed to draw the inference that BAC at the time you were driving was the same as when the test was administered. If you agree to take the breath test, the police must advise you of your right to have an additional test taken at your own expense, and the police must give you a reasonable opportunity to exercise this right. In addition, in both refusal cases and in drunk driving cases, the police must advise you immediately after your arrest of your right to be examined by a physician of your choosing at your expense.