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       For informational purposes only. Always consult an attorney to obtain competent legal advice.

Traffic Violations

Traffic Violations

In General

  • Most traffic violations are civil in nature and result in a fine imposed by a municipal court or at the Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal (RITT). Such violations can be for speeding, crossing a center line, failure to yield to a vehicle having the right-of-way, failure to obey traffic control device (such as a stop sign or red light), and many other “moving violations”.

  • Moving violations can appear on your driving record and can result in an increase of your insurance premiums. Thus, protecting your driving record is important.

  • Many violations may be dismissed under the Rhode Island “good driver” law, as long as the operator has no record of moving violations within the last three years. This statute cannot be used by drivers who have not been driving for at least three years.

  • Some driving-related offenses are deemed criminal by law. For example, a person under 21 years who transports alcoholic beverages, whether opened or unopened, can be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor. A person charged with any driving-related criminal offense can be required to appear at the Rhode Island District Court or at the RITT. In some cases where a person is charged with multiple offenses, he or she may be required to appear at both the District Court (or Superior Court if the charge is a felony) and the RITT.

  • In addition to resolving any violations and/or criminal charges, when a person’s license to operate is suspended, a separate procedure must be completed prior to any reinstatement of the license. All outstanding fines and a "reinstatement fee" must be paid in full.

In General
Traffic Violations

Traffic Violations & Auto Accidents

  • In the event of an auto accident, the responding police officer will investigate the accident by speaking to each operator and any witnesses, and by examining the scene of the accident for skid marks, the location of broken glass or vehicle parts, and determination of whether any operator violated any "rules of the road." 

  • The officer may then issue a traffic "citation" to any operator found to have probably violated any driving laws. In the event that any operator and/or passengers sustained any personal injuries as a result of the collision, which operator(s) were issued a traffic citation will often determine issues of liability for the accident. (See Personal Injury Claims under "Practice Areas" in the main menu at the top of each page.)

DUI & Drunk Driving

DUI & Drunk Driving

  • If a police officer has probable cause to believe that a person operating a vehicle is driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or drugs (including prescription drugs), the officer may request the operator to take a breathalyzer test to check the person’s blood alcohol level. If the level is within legal limits, the officer may request that the person give a blood sample at a local hospital to check for the presence of drugs.

  • If the operator refuses either test, the operator is ordinarily guilty of a “refusal” and is deemed to have been driving under the influence.

  • An officer has probable cause to request that the operator submit to a breath and/or blood test when the circumstances suggest a probability of driving under the influence, such as the officer's observation that the vehicle is being driven erratically, or when an anonymous “911” call reported an erratically driven vehicle.

  • Of course, if the officer is investigating an auto accident or stops the vehicle for other reasons, such as for speeding or failure to use a directional single, and the officer observes signs of operator intoxication, probable cause is probably established.

  • Over the years, drunk driving laws have been strengthened in response to the occurrence of atrocious accidents caused by drunk drivers resulting in death and serious personal injuries, and also as a result of federal highway funding requirements.

  • Mandatory loss of license, DUI school, community service, and a fine are ordinarily the minimum penalties imposed, even for a first offense where the blood alcohol level was just over .08%.

  • Driving under the influence of even a prescription drug is ordinarily treated just like a drunk driving offense. As one prosecutor put it, the drunk driving laws can make a criminal out of an otherwise law-abiding citizen, even if an accident does not result in any personal injuries.

  • Subsequent DUI violations within a 5-year period can substantially increase the penalties imposed upon conviction, including incarceration at the ACI. These penalties are much worse when death or serious personal injury was caused by a person who was driving under the influence. In such a case, more serious criminal charges can be filed. 

  • Even when no serious personal injury results, a drunk driving conviction will ordinarily cause a substantial increase in a person’s insurance rates and can also result in job loss.

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