For Rhode Island authorities to charge a driver with driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or drugs, the driver must be 21 years old or older and have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of at least .08%. However, it works a little differently for younger drivers.
State authorities can instead charge drivers between the ages of 18 and 20 with driving while impaired (DWI). Because of universal zero-tolerance laws against underage drinking, young drivers can face a DWI if their BAC is at least .02%.
You might think that because young drivers can be convicted of drunk driving, they’d generally face lighter penalties than adults charged with DUI. While that may be true in some instances (i.e., underage drivers must render community service instead of doing jail time), young drivers can end up paying a lot of fines and fees as part of their punishment.
Fines and penalties for DWI charges
The following are the penalties awaiting underage drivers charged with DWI:
- First offense: A maximum fine of up to $250, 30 hours of community service and a maximum license suspension period of up to three months. It’s also up to the judge’s discretion if the driver must also undergo a DWI class or alcohol education.
- Second offense: A maximum fine of up to $250, a $300 highway reinstatement fee, up to 60 hours of community service, a maximum license suspension period of up to three months and mandatory DWI/alcohol education classes.
Underage drivers, however, can face the same DUI charges levied on adults if their BAC is .08% or above.
On top of these penalties, underage drivers facing DWI charges must also pay a $500 highway assessment fine plus a $200 health department assessment fee. Those with suspended licenses must also pay a $352.50 reinstatement fee once the suspension period ends.
DWI charges can cost much money, which can be challenging for younger drivers. Not to mention they can lead to convictions that can stay on record for years, which can affect an individual’s career and financial opportunities in the future. If you or a relative face a DWI charge, consider consulting a legal professional to protect the young driver’s rights in court and negotiate for lighter penalties if the court is unwilling to throw out the conviction.