Title 31
Motor and Other Vehicles

Chapter 27
Motor Vehicle Offenses

R.I. Gen. Laws 31-27-2.1



 31-27-2.1.  Refusal to submit to chemical test.


(a) Any person who operates a motor vehicle within this state shall be deemed to have given his or her consent to chemical tests of his or her breath, blood, and/or urine for the purpose of determining the chemical content of his or her body fluids or breath. No more than two (2) complete tests, one for the presence of intoxicating liquor and one for the presence of toluene or any controlled substance, as defined in 21-28-1.02, shall be administered at the direction of a law enforcement officer having reasonable grounds to believe the person to have been driving a motor vehicle within this state while under the influence of intoxicating liquor, toluene, or any controlled substance, as defined in chapter 28 of title 21, or any combination of these. The director of the department of health is empowered to make and file, with the secretary of state, regulations that prescribe the techniques and methods of chemical analysis of the person's body fluids or breath and the qualifications and certification of individuals authorized to administer the testing and analysis.

(b) If a person, for religious or medical reasons, cannot be subjected to blood tests, the person may file an affidavit with the division of motor vehicles stating the reasons why he or she cannot be required to take blood tests and a notation to this effect shall be made on his or her license. If that person is asked to submit to chemical tests as provided under this chapter, the person shall only be required to submit to chemical tests of his or her breath or urine. When a person is requested to submit to blood tests, only a physician or registered nurse, or a medical technician certified under regulations promulgated by the director of the department of health, may withdraw blood for the purpose of determining the alcoholic content in it. This limitation shall not apply to the taking of breath or urine specimens. The person tested shall be permitted to have a physician of his or her own choosing, and at his or her own expense, administer chemical tests of his or her breath, blood, and/or urine in addition to the tests administered at the direction of a law enforcement officer. If a person, having been placed under arrest, refuses upon the request of a law enforcement officer to submit to the tests, as provided in 31-27-2, none shall be given.

(1) At the initial traffic tribunal appearance, the magistrate shall review the incident, action, and/or arrest reports submitted by the law enforcement officer to determine if there exists reasonable grounds to believe that the person had been driving a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating liquor, toluene, or any controlled substance as defined in chapter 28 of title 21, or any combination thereof. The magistrate shall also determine if the person had been informed of the penalties incurred as a result of failing to submit to a chemical test as provided in this section and that the person had been informed of the implied consent notice contained in subsection (c)(10) of this section. For the purpose of this subsection only, "driving a motor vehicle while under the influence of any controlled substance as defined in chapter 28 of title 21" shall be indicated by the presence or aroma of a controlled substance on or about the person or vehicle of the individual refusing the chemical test or other reliable indicia or articulable conditions that the person was impaired due to their intake of a controlled substance.

(2) If the magistrate determines that subsection (b)(1) of this section has been satisfied they shall promptly order that the person's operator's license or privilege to operate a motor vehicle in this state be immediately suspended. Said suspension shall be subject to the hardship provisions enumerated in 31-27-2.8.

(c) A traffic tribunal judge or magistrate, or a district court judge or magistrate, pursuant to the terms of subsection (d) of this section, shall order as follows:

(1) Impose, for the first violation, a fine in the amount of two hundred dollars ($200) to five hundred dollars ($500) and shall order the person to perform ten (10) to sixty (60) hours of public community restitution. The person's driving license in this state shall be suspended for a period of six (6) months to one year. The traffic tribunal judge or magistrate shall require attendance at a special course on driving while intoxicated or under the influence of a controlled substance and/or alcohol or drug treatment for the individual. The traffic tribunal judge or magistrate may prohibit that person from operating a motor vehicle that is not equipped with an ignition interlock system and/or blood and urine testing as provided in 31-27-2.8.

(2) Every person convicted of a second violation within a five-year (5) period, except with respect to cases of refusal to submit to a blood test, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor; shall be imprisoned for not more than six (6) months; shall pay a fine in the amount of six hundred dollars ($600) to one thousand dollars ($1,000); perform sixty (60) to one hundred (100) hours of public community restitution; and the person's driving license in this state shall be suspended for a period of one year to two (2) years. The judge or magistrate shall require alcohol and/or drug treatment for the individual. The sentencing judge or magistrate shall prohibit that person from operating a motor vehicle that is not equipped with an ignition interlock system and/or blood and urine testing as provided in 31-27-2.8.

(3) Every person convicted for a third or subsequent violation within a five-year (5) period, except with respect to cases of refusal to submit to a blood test, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor; and shall be imprisoned for not more than one year; fined eight hundred dollars ($800) to one thousand dollars ($1,000); shall perform not less than one hundred (100) hours of public community restitution; and the person's operator's license in this state shall be suspended for a period of two (2) years to five (5) years. The sentencing judge or magistrate shall prohibit that person from operating a motor vehicle that is not equipped with an ignition interlock system and/or blood and urine testing as provided in 31-27-2.8. The judge or magistrate shall require alcohol or drug treatment for the individual. Provided, that prior to the reinstatement of a license to a person charged with a third or subsequent violation within a three-year (3) period, a hearing shall be held before a judge or magistrate. At the hearing, the judge or magistrate shall review the person's driving record, his or her employment history, family background, and any other pertinent factors that would indicate that the person has demonstrated behavior that warrants the reinstatement of his or her license.

(4) For a second violation within a five-year (5) period with respect to a case of a refusal to submit to a blood test, a fine in the amount of six hundred dollars ($600) to one thousand dollars ($1,000); the person shall perform sixty (60) to one hundred (100) hours of public community restitution; and the person's driving license in this state shall be suspended for a period of two (2) years. The judicial officer shall require alcohol and/or drug treatment for the individual. The sentencing judicial officer shall prohibit that person from operating a motor vehicle that is not equipped with an ignition interlock system as provided in 31-27-2.8. Such a violation with respect to refusal to submit to a chemical blood test shall be a civil offense.

(5) For a third or subsequent violation within a five-year (5) period with respect to a case of a refusal to submit to a blood test, a fine in the amount of eight hundred dollars ($800) to one thousand dollars ($1,000); the person shall perform not less than one hundred (100) hours of public community restitution; and the person's driving license in this state shall be suspended for a period of two (2) to five (5) years. The sentencing judicial officer shall prohibit that person from operating a motor vehicle that is not equipped with an ignition interlock system as provided in 31-27-2.8. The judicial officer shall require alcohol and/or drug treatment for the individual. Such a violation with respect to refusal to submit to a chemical test of blood shall be a civil offense. Provided, that prior to the reinstatement of a license to a person charged with a third or subsequent violation within a three-year (3) period, a hearing shall be held before a judicial officer. At the hearing, the judicial officer shall review the person's driving record, his or her employment history, family background, and any other pertinent factors that would indicate that the person has demonstrated behavior that warrants the reinstatement of their license.

(6) For purposes of determining the period of license suspension, a prior violation shall constitute any charge brought and sustained under the provisions of this section or 31-27-2.

(7) In addition to any other fines, a highway safety assessment of five hundred dollars ($500) shall be paid by any person found in violation of this section, the assessment to be deposited into the general fund. The assessment provided for by this subsection shall be collected from a violator before any other fines authorized by this section.

(8) In addition to any other fines and highway safety assessments, a two-hundred-dollar ($200) assessment shall be paid by any person found in violation of this section to support the department of health's chemical testing programs outlined in 31-27-2(f) and 31-27-2(g), that shall be deposited as general revenues, not restricted receipts.

(9) No fines, suspensions, assessments, alcohol or drug treatment programs, course on driving while intoxicated or under the influence of a controlled substance, or public community restitution provided for under this section can be suspended.

(10) Implied consent notice for persons eighteen (18) years of age or older: "Rhode Island law requires you to submit to a chemical test of your blood, breath, or urine for the purpose of determining the chemical content of your body fluids or breath. If you refuse this testing, certain penalties can be imposed and include the following: for a first offense, your Rhode Island driver's license or privilege to operate a motor vehicle in this state can be suspended for six (6) months to one year or modified to permit operation in connection with an ignition interlock device for a period specified by law; a fine from two hundred dollars ($200) to five hundred dollars ($500) can be imposed; and you can be ordered to perform ten (10) to sixty (60) hours of community service and attend a special course on driving while intoxicated or under the influence of a controlled substance and/or alcohol or drug treatment. If you have had one or more previous offenses within the past five (5) years, your refusal to submit to a chemical test of breath or urine at this time can have criminal penalties, including incarceration up to six (6) months for a second offense and up to one year for a third or subsequent offense, and can carry increased license suspension or ignition interlock period, fines, and community service. All violators shall pay a five hundred dollar ($500) highway safety assessment fee, a two hundred dollar ($200) department of health chemical testing programs assessment fee, and a license reinstatement fee. Refusal to submit to a chemical test of blood shall not subject you to criminal penalties for the refusal itself, but if you have one or more previous offenses other civil penalties may increase. You have the right to be examined at your own expense by a physician selected by you. If you submit to a chemical test at this time, you have the right to have an additional chemical test performed at your own expense. You will be afforded a reasonable opportunity to exercise these rights. Access to a telephone will be made available for you to make those arrangements. You may now use a telephone."
Use of this implied consent notice shall serve as evidence that a person's consent to a chemical test is valid in a prosecution involving driving under the influence of liquor, controlled substances, and/or drugs.

(d) Upon suspending or refusing to issue a license or permit as provided in subsection (a), the traffic tribunal or district court shall immediately notify the person involved in writing, and upon his or her request, within fifteen (15) days, afford the person an opportunity for a hearing as early as practical upon receipt of a request in writing. Upon a hearing, the judge may administer oaths and may issue subpoenas for the attendance of witnesses and the production of relevant books and papers. If the judge finds after the hearing that:

(1) The law enforcement officer making the sworn report had reasonable grounds to believe that the arrested person had been driving a motor vehicle within this state while under the influence of intoxicating liquor, toluene, or any controlled substance, as defined in chapter 28 of title 21, or any combination of these;

(2) The person, while under arrest, refused to submit to the tests upon the request of a law enforcement officer;

(3) The person had been informed of his or her rights in accordance with 31-27-3; and

(4) The person had been informed of the penalties incurred as a result of noncompliance with this section, the judge shall sustain the violation. The judge shall then impose the penalties set forth in subsection (c) of this section. Action by the judge must be taken within seven (7) days after the hearing or it shall be presumed that the judge has refused to issue his or her order of suspension.

(e) For the purposes of this section, any test of a sample of blood, breath, or urine for the presence of alcohol that relies, in whole or in part, upon the principle of infrared light absorption is considered a chemical test.

(f) If any provision of this section, or the application of any provision, shall, for any reason, be judged invalid, the judgment shall not affect, impair, or invalidate the remainder of the section, but shall be confined in this effect to the provisions or application directly involved in the controversy giving rise to the judgment.

History of Section.
G.L. 1956, 31-27-2.1; P.L. 1966, ch. 215, 1; P.L. 1973, ch. 213, 1; P.L. 1974, ch. 209, 1; P.L. 1978, ch. 174, 1; P.L. 1980, ch. 322, 1; P.L. 1982, ch. 177, 1; P.L. 1983, ch. 228, 1; P.L. 1985, ch. 291, 1; P.L. 1986, ch. 433, 1; P.L. 1986, ch. 508, 1; P.L. 1990, ch. 329, 1; P.L. 1994, ch. 70, art. 35, 7; P.L. 2006, ch. 232, 1; P.L. 2006, ch. 235, 1; P.L. 2006, ch. 246, art. 10, 1; P.L. 2014, ch. 230, 1; P.L. 2014, ch. 326, 1; P.L. 2016, ch. 127, 1; P.L. 2016, ch. 141, 1; P.L. 2017, ch. 435, 1; P.L. 2018, ch. 346, 24; P.L. 2021, ch. 170, 1; P.L. 2021, ch. 171, 1.