In Rhode Island, state law defines driving under the influence (DUI) as driving a motor vehicle with a BAC of 0.08% or higher. If the driver is under the age of 21, the driver can be charged with a DUI with a BAC 0.02% or greater. A commercial driver can be charged with a DUI with a BAC 0.04% or greater.
To be convicted of an alcohol-related offense in Rhode Island, the state must prove the accused operated the vehicle. “Vehicle” includes bicycles. Obviously, if a driver is pulled over by the police officer while driving, the driver is in control and “operating” the vehicle. But when else can a person be found in control of a vehicle and charged with DUI in the state of Rhode Island?
Understanding Physical Control in Rhode Island
The issue of physical control most often arises when a driver is found passed out behind the wheel of a vehicle. In many states, a driver can be found in physical control while passed out behind the wheel and charged with a DUI.
However, the Supreme Court of the state of Rhode Island, in State v. Capuano, found that the legislature had removed the “physical control” language from the statute. As a result, the court held that physical control of the vehicle was insufficient to find that the driver had “operated” the vehicle. Instead, the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt by some other means that the accused had operated the vehicle.
Other Grounds for Conviction
Of course, if someone is found passed out behind the wheel of their car, and if they also have a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or greater, while this alone will not lead to a conviction, this is not to suggest one cannot be convicted of DUI in these circumstances. While the Supreme Court of Rhode Island has held these facts alone will not suffice, with additional facts, a person may still be convicted.
For example, perhaps there is also a passenger in the car. If the passenger tells police the person in the driver's seat actually drove the car, this, in combination with the other facts, may be enough for a conviction. If there is video evidence of the driver leaving the parking lot of a bar, for example, this could be sufficient for a conviction.
Every Case is Different
Because every DUI case is different, it is a good idea to have a qualified criminal defense attorney review the facts and circumstances of your individual case to determine what defenses may be present. Kensley R. Barrett, has over seven years of criminal defense experience. Contact Kensley R. Barrett, ESQ today to discuss your case.