In Rhode Island, you may be charged with a DUI if you drive or operate a vehicle while intoxicated by drugs and/or alcohol, or you have a blood alcohol concentration of .08% or higher. The process leading up to a DUI charge involves several steps, and at each stage, you have certain rights. Some of these rights you can exercise, which can prevent you from providing the State with evidence that can strengthen its case against you. If other rights are violated, some evidence may be dismissed, thus weakening the State's case against you.
A few of your rights during a DUI stop include the following:
- Remaining silent: In Rhode Island, when an officer pulls you over, you do not have to answer any questions or provide statements to them. You can respectfully and politely decline. You are required to give the officer your driver's license, motor vehicle registration, and/or proof of insurance. However, beyond that, any information you provide them can be used as evidence against you in your criminal case should you later be charged with a DUI.
- Being free from a lengthy stop: Rhode Island law provides that an officer cannot unnecessarily prolong a traffic stop. Unless they have reasonable suspicion or probable cause that a crime has or will occur, they must only stop you for as long as is necessary to address the alleged violation. If you were detained for an extended period, that may be raised as a defense in your case.
- Declining a search: Under the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, all people are protected from unreasonable searches and seizures – that protection applies during DUI stops. An officer cannot search your vehicle unless they gave reasonable suspicion or probable cause to believe that a crime has been or will be committed. Under the law, if they don't have either, they cannot request to search your car. If they do, you can politely decline. Consenting to a search essentially waives your Fourth Amendment right, and any evidence obtained may be admissible in your case.
- Refusing field sobriety tests: Before an officer can take you into custody on suspicion of DUI, they must have probable cause to do so. That means they must be able to point to some concrete evidence that suggested you were driving while intoxicated. One way an officer may establish cause is by requesting that you participate in field sobriety tests (FSTs) and observe your performance on them. If you "fail" the tests, they may have grounds to arrest you. What some officers may lead you to believe is that participating in FSTs is mandatory. It's not. You can politely refuse to take them. However, even if you don't participate, an officer may still arrest you based on some other observation.
- Refusing chemical tests: Chemical tests aren't administered during a DUI stop. However, it's important to understand your rights concerning them regardless. A chemical test analyzes a blood, breath, or urine sample to determine your blood alcohol concentration level. It can be administered only after you have been arrested for driving under the influence. Under Rhode Island law, anyone who drives in the state has given their implied consent to be subject to a chemical test, but you can refuse to participate. Although, doing so may result in several penalties, including a fine, community service, and/or a driver's license suspension.
Consult with an Attorney Immediately
If you've been accused of a DUI, it's crucial that you note everything that occurred from the initial traffic stop to the formal charge being filed. Then, speak with our lawyer about your situation. We'll thoroughly review the facts leading up to your arrest and will develop a defense strategy for your unique situation.