What happens when you refuse the breathalyzer in Rhode Island? If you refuse the chemical test, commonly referred to as the breathalyzer, you will receive a court date at the Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal for an arraignment on the charge of chemical test refusal.
On your first day in court, the judge will determine whether to issue a preliminary order suspending your driver's license or privilege to operate in the State of Rhode Island if you are a nonresident. Accordingly, it is extremely important to come to this court date prepared and with an attorney so that your attorney can review the police report and the sworn report of the arresting officer.
When determining whether to issue the preliminary order, the judge will review the sworn report of the arresting officer to determine if it satisfies the requirements of Rhode Island General Laws 31-27-2.1. This sworn report must set forth that the State can prove each of the elements of a chemical test refusal and be signed by the officer under the pains and penalties of perjury.
A Rhode Island chemical test refusal trial requires the State to establish by a preponderance of the evidence that 1) the officer had reasonable suspicion to stop the motorist, 2) probable cause to arrest and that 3) the arresting officer advised the motorist of their right to a phone call and independent medical examination, as well as informed the motorist of the penalties and consequences of refusing the chemical test. The State must also prove that despite being informed of these consequences the motorist refused to submit to a chemical test.
Following the arignment, the case is assigned a trial date. At trial, often the police officer will base the decision to arrest on the performance on the field sobriety tests. These field exercises are intended to test the motorist's normal hospitals to operate a motor vehicle. Yet, police officers often conduct the field sobriety tests under difficult and abnormal conditions. The tests are typically administrated on the side of the road with vehicles passing by rapidly, in cold, windy or rainy weather conditions, in dark areas, or on uneven road surfaces. While the conditions differ for each motorist taking the field sobriety tests, the officer will judge the results without accounting for these factors, which make the exercise unfair and an unreliable indicator of injury.
In addition to the unavoidable conditions of the road field tests, many officers fail to judge the field sobriety tests in accordance with their training at the police academy. Police officers are trained to follow the methods delineated in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Manual. However, officers rarely follow the NHTSA method as instructed. While strict adherence is not required by the court, these departures from procedure may cause a judge to find a lack of probable cause to arrest.
Finally, the State must establish that the motorist was informed of the penalies and consequences of refusing the breathalyzer test. This is proved through the introduction into evidence of a signed copy of the rights form. The rights form is a preprinted form that the officer typically reads to the motorist detailing the penalties for refusing the chemical test and advising the motorist of their right to a phone call and to an independent medical examination. The State will attempt to prove that the motorist was advised of their rights and the penalies for refusal the chemical test through the introduction of this rights form with the motorist's signature on it. However, an officer may have made statements in addition to those contained in the rights form. If the officer made statements to the motorist prior to signing the form or made additional statements as to the penalties or consequences, it could be argued that the officer failed to properly advise the motorist of the consequences of reflecting the breathalyzer test.
If you are charged with a breathalyzer refusal, under the current state of the law, the minimum license loss is six months for a first indemnity. There is no hardship license for work or education available under Rhode Island law. It is important to have an attorney assess the basis of the stop, the probable cause for the arrest and whether you were properly advised of your rights when assessing the strength of the State's case against you for refusing the breathalyzer.
If you have been arrested for refusing the breathalyzer in Rhode Island, you may have valid defenses, which could result in the cancellation of the breathalyzer refusal charge. Correspondingly, you should consult with an attorney immediately.