Tougher drunken driving rules pursued in Rhode Island

| 11/29/2005

Lawmakers are lining up in Rhode Island to pitch plans to fight drunken driving in the state.

Three days after Democrats in the state’s House endorsed an effort to toughen penalties for drivers who refuse to take Breathalyzer tests, Gov. Don Carcieri and Attorney General Patrick Lynch announced their own plan.

Under the Carcieri and Lynch bill, drivers who refuse to be tested would lose their licenses for nine to 12 months, face a fine up to $1,000 and be subject to the possibility of attending DUI-related driver-education classes.

Repeat offenders could be convicted of a misdemeanor crime, rather than a civil offense, and would have their driving privileges either suspended or revoked.

Sponsored by Rep. J. Patrick O’Neill of Pawtucket, the Democratic plan would add criminal penalties for those who repeatedly refuse testing.

Rhode Island law now takes driver’s licenses for three months for refusing a Breathalyzer. Those convicted of driving under the influence lose their driving privileges for six months.

In instances where a driver refuses a blood alcohol test, police must rely on their observations of the driver and on field sobriety tests.

The state leads the nation in the number of drivers who refuse blood alcohol tests, The Providence Journal reported.