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Will a first-offense DUI lead to an ignition interlock device installation?

On Behalf of | Dec 5, 2023 | Criminal Defense

In most U.S. states, drivers convicted of driving under the influence (DUI) may be ordered to have their vehicles installed with an ignition interlock device (IID) as part of their punishment. An IID prevents the vehicle from starting unless the driver blows into the device; if the device detects high levels of alcohol in the driver’s breath, it will continue to prevent the engine from starting.

The requirement to have an IID installed is one of the most severe penalties any court can impose on a driver, especially if the motorist must use the device for a year. In some U.S. states, the courts will order drivers convicted of DUI to have IIDs installed on their very first offense. Others won’t require the device until they determine a driver to be a repeat offender.

But what about Rhode Island? Can a driver face an IID requirement on their first DUI offense?

IID on the first offense with a higher blood alcohol

Per state law, a person convicted of DUI for the first time whose blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is at least .1% but less than .15% may have to have an IID installed on their vehicle, depending on the sentencing judge.

The BAC level is notable, as the law holds that a driver with a BAC of at least .08% already violates DUI laws, but a judge can’t require them to install an IID for a first offense. A driver with a BAC between .1% and .15% not only goes over this limit but will likely be more intoxicated, hence the IID requirement.

So, yes. A driver can face an IID requirement on their first DUI conviction – but only if their BAC is higher than the regular threshold for a DUI.

Other penalties for a higher BAC

Apart from requiring the installation of an IID, the sentencing judge may also suspend the convicted driver’s license for up to 12 months. The court may also order the driver to apply for a hardship license to go with the IID installation. A hardship license grants the driver restricted driving privileges, such as operating the vehicle within a pre-determined period per day.

After a court finalizes the driver’s IID and hardship license sanctions, the driver must report this to the DMV immediately. Failure to report this would result in the court ordering the driver to explain why they delayed relaying the information.

In conclusion, a driver convicted of DUI for the first time only faces an IID requirement if their BAC levels were higher than normal at the time of the offense. It’s important for those facing charges to consult with a legal professional to understand which penalties they potentially must serve.