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Three Stages of a DUI Case

Three Stages of a DUI Case

Let’s start at the beginning.  In Rhode Island, if a driver has a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or higher, he is presumed to be too intoxicated to safely operate a vehicle.  Moreover, if a police officer reasonably suspects a driver to be committing a DUI, he can ask the driver to submit to a Chemical Test to determine his blood alcohol concentration.

Every driver in Rhode Island is deemed to have given his implied consent to submit to such a test at the officer’s request.  That consent can be withdrawn at anytime, but doing so typically results in a charge of refusing a Breath Test.  Frequently, a driver who refuses a Breath Test is charged with both the DUI and Refusal.  The elements the state must prove for each charge, while different, share many similarities, and each will be discussed in detail.

A DUI case can be broken down into three (3) stages:

(1) Pre-Arrest

(2) Arrest, and

(3) Post-Arrest.

The Pre-Arrest stage starts with the officer’s observations and suspicion that the driver is committing DUI.  Assuming the officer believes he has probable cause to make a DUI arrest, the case proceeds to the next stage, also called the Arrest stage.  During the Arrest stage, the officer attempts to gather evidence used to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.  The Post-Arrest stage includes pretrial conferences, plea negotiations and trials.

This website explains the journey of a DUI case through all three (3) stages . . . and beyond.  I am going to illustrate how this process works, step by step, from inception to possible conclusion.  On the various pages of this website I will explain what evidence the police are looking to gather, how they gather it and what can be expected to occur at each stage.  As you read this website, bear in mind that a driver suspected of DUI is presumed innocent.  It’s the job of the police and the prosecution to overcome that presumption by evidence and proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

The Pre-Arrest stage of a DUI case can be further divided into two (2) phases:

(1)  Vehicle in Motion, and

(2)  Initial Personal Contact with The Driver.

From the perspective of the police, both phases have the same goal of providing the necessary probable cause to justify an arrest and prosecution of a driver suspected to be committing a DUI.  In this stage, the officer must ask and answer three (3) questions:

(1)  Should I stop the vehicle?

(2)  Is there enough evidence to require the driver to exit the vehicle? And

(3)  Is there probable cause to make an arrest for DUI?