Refusal Charge Dismissed at Arraignment

In December of 2011, our Client was involved in a motor vehicle accident. After police responded to the accident, they arrested our Client and charged him with refusal to submit to a chemical test. Our Client drives for a living and it was important he receive the best refusal defense possible.

Pursuant to Rhode Island General Laws 31-27-2.1, refusal to submit to a chemical test is defined as 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(7), 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 which 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.

Once charged with refusal, a motorist is arraigned on the charge before a judge or magistrate. At the arraignment, the judge can promptly order that the person's operator's license or privilege to operate a motor vehicle in Rhode Island for out of state licensees be immediately suspended and if that person has a Rhode Island license, the license must be surrendered within five (5) days of the suspension.

A motorist cannot be forced to submit to a chemical test except in rare circumstances. Although a civil charge, not a criminal charge, the penalties for refusal are severe. The penalties for a first offense refusal include:

(1) 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 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.

(5) 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.

(6) 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(4), which shall be deposited as general revenues, not restricted receipts.

However, due to legal issues raised by Attorney Humphrey, the refusal case was dismissed at arraignment. Our client never suffered a period of license suspension.

If you or a family member has been charged with refusal to submit to a chemical test, drunk driving (DUI), or other alcohol offenses, please allow Attorney Robert H. Humphrey's reputation, experience and skill to successfully guide you through the legal process. Please contact Attorney Robert H. Humphrey, Esq., at 401-816-5862 or e-mail him at

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