Tiverton School Department to Use Breathalyzer

As reported in the September 13, 2012 edition of the Providence Journal, the Tiverton School Department, specifically the high school, is considering using breathalyzer tests on students. A new proposal would allow staff to test students who they believe are intoxicated or show signs of alcohol consumption. It is unclear whether students would be permitted to refuse the breathalyzer test. The results would not be given to the police.

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.

However, police only ask people to submit to a breathalyzer test if they are believed to be operating a motor vehicle while under the influence. This proposal would allow students to be tested to determine if they have been drinking, not if they have been drinking and then driving.

Pursuant to R.I.G.L. 3-8-10, the students could be charged with possession of alcohol by a minor, which is defined as any person who has not reached his or her twenty-first (21st) birthday and has in his or her possession any beverage. Their case would be before the Family Court and if convicted, the penalties include a fine of one hundred fifty dollars ($150) to seven hundred fifty dollars ($750), thirty (30) hours of community service and shall be subject to a minimum sixty (60) day suspension of his or her driver's license.

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