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What is at stake in breath test refusal cases?

As is the case in other states, the law in Rhode Island presumes that, if you have a driver's license, then you have already given consent to breath, blood or urine tests for the purpose of determining whether or not you are driving under the influence. Refusing a chemical test can therefore result in penalties also handed down for DUI convictions.

If a police officer pulls you over on suspicion of DUI and requests that you provide a breath sample, then not providing a sample could later result in a court order that immediately suspends your driving privileges and requires you to turn over your license to authorities within five days. However, the police officer must also follow protocol during a traffic stop.

For example, if an officer pulls you over and you refuse a breath test, then the officer is supposed to inform you of your rights, as well as inform you of the possible penalties you could incur for refusing a chemical test.

A first-time violation of refusing a breath test can result in a fine of $200 to $500, plus other fees; 10 to 60 hours of community service; a license suspension of six months to one year; and special drug or alcohol counseling.

If you refuse a breath test again within five years of the first refusal, then you may be convicted of a misdemeanor. A jail sentence of up to six months could also apply, along with a fine of $600 to $1,000; 60 to 100 hours of community service; a license suspension of one to two years; and alcohol or drug treatment.

The penalties increase for every third or subsequent offense.

With the stakes so high, anyone facing a charge of DUI or breath test refusal should speak with a DUI defense lawyer about mounting a strong defense.

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