In the state of Rhode Island, traffic offenses are mainly heard at the Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal. However, some offenses are heard at the Municipal Courts in the individual cities and towns. It is important when you receive a traffic ticket to check which court you are required to go to.
A traffic ticket is a very common offense, and sometimes the consequences of a traffic ticket can be devastating to a person. This can leave a person feeling lost about how to handle their ticket.
If you receive a traffic ticket in Rhode Island, you could be facing a potential license suspension, the possibility of having to take driver retraining classes, an increase in insurance rates, and hefty fines and fees due to the court.
You can have legal representation to represent you on traffic violations in Rhode Island. The traffic offense lawyers at Ellison Law LLC have represented many people on traffic offenses in Rhode Island.
Can a Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal Judge Suspend Your License?
Rhode Island law gives Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal Magistrates a great deal of discretion regarding the punishment of motorists who have violated any of Rhode Island's motor vehicle laws. Philip Dey v. State of Rhode Island, A.A. No. 14-124 (2015).
Rhode Island General Laws 31-41.1-6(c) states that "A judge or Magistrate may include in the order the imposition of any penalty authorized by any provisions of this title for the violation, including, but not limited to, license suspension and/or in the case of a motorist under the age of twenty (20), community service, except that no penalty for it shall include imprisonment. A judge or magistrate may order the suspension or revocation of a license or of a registration in the name of the defendant in accordance with any provisions of this title which authorize the suspension or revocation of a license or of a registration or may order the suspension of the license and the registration of the defendant for the willful failure to pay a fine previously imposed."
With that in mind, the District Court in Philip Dey v. State of Rhode Island, A.A. No. 14-124 (2015) reasoned that Magistrates have the power and discretion to suspend a person's license and/or issue community service (for anyone under the age of 20) if that person has violated any provisions in Title 31.
What is the Court Process for a Traffic Ticket in Rhode Island?
If you want to fight a ticket, you can hire an attorney to help represent you throughout the whole process. Ellison Law LLC has experienced traffic offense lawyers who have represented many people on traffic ticket violations.
Initially you will receive a summons in the mail, which will tell you what you are charged with and what date to appear in court.
At your initial appearance at the Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal or a Municipal Court, you can enter a plea of Guilty or Not Guilty. There will be a police prosecutor or city solicitor representing the town or city that issued you the ticket. It is likely the police officer who issued you the ticket will not be there. Our attorneys have experience negotiating and speaking with police prosecutors and city solicitors throughout the State of Rhode Island. If you choose to enter a Guilty plea, the process is over and the judge will sentence you based on the offense and the law.
If you decide to plead Not Guilty, you can request a trial date. At the trial date, the police officer who issued you the ticket will likely have to come in to give testimony as to what happened. You have the right to ask this police officer questions, testify on your own behalf and present evidence. You can also make an argument to the judge about why you are Not Guilty. Our attorneys have represented many clients at trial throughout their careers and are experienced in conducting all aspects of a trial. At the end of the trial, the judge will make a determination as to whether you are guilty or not guilty of the charges and what sentence to impose if you are found guilty.
Four Reasons to Fight Traffic Offenses
Whether a traffic offense is minor or major, you want to fight it. Here are four good reasons why that's the case.
- Clean driving record. If you pay the fine, plead guilty, or ignore a traffic offense, you will ruin a potential clean driving record. The worse your record is, the closer you are to license suspension. Further, with each traffic violation, you reset the clock used to erase old offenses from your record.
- Avoid a License Suspension. Many traffic offenses can result in a license suspension in Rhode Island. Even if you may not be looking at a license suspension on this Summons, if you continue to accumulate traffic offenses, you could be facing a license suspension in the future.
- Limited evidence. If you fight a ticket, even a civil motor vehicle offense, the officer must appear in court and show evidence to prove you committed the offense. Sometimes the police are unable to prove that you actually committed the offense that you were cited for.
- Increase options. To pay a traffic ticket is the same as declaring guilt. If you request a hearing, however, you have more options to plead to a lesser offense or may be able to get the Summons dismissed.
What are some Common Traffic Violations in Rhode Island?
Traffic infractions in Rhode Island are civil motor vehicle offenses. If you commit a traffic infraction, you're usually issued a Summons (ticket). Typically, you have the option to pay the fines associated with the charge or dispute the summons by attending a court hearing in either the Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal or Municipal Court. Some offenses require a mandatory hearing in court, which you must appear for.
The penalties for a traffic infraction can include fines, attending driver retraining, and a license suspension. The following are some common traffic violations in Rhode Island:
Can You Use a Good Driving Record to Get a Rhode Ticket Dismissed?
Under Rhode Island General Laws § 31.41.1-7, you can request a dismissal based on having a good driving record, if you do not have any violations in the previous three (3) years. You must appear at your hearing or have a lawyer appear on your behalf. You will have to pay $60 in costs to the court (thirty-five dollar ($35.00) administrative fee for court costs associated with the dismissal and twenty-five dollar ($25.00) surcharge on all dismissals based upon a good driving record to be deposited into the Rhode Island highway maintenance account).
The following tickets are not eligible for dismissal based on a good driving record:
(1) Any violation within the original jurisdiction of superior or district court;
(2) A refusal to submit to a chemical test of breath, blood or urine pursuant to § 31-27-2.1;
(3) Any violation involving a school bus;
(4) Any violation involving an accident where there has been property damage or personal injury;
(5) Any speeding violation in excess of fourteen miles per hour (14 m.p.h.) above the posted speed limit;
(6) Any violation involving child restraints in motor vehicles pursuant to § 31-22-22;
(7) Any violation committed by a holder of a commercial license as defined in § 31-10.3-3 or any violation committed in a commercial motor vehicle as defined in § 31-10.3-3 by an operator who does not hold a commercial license.
Whether you or a loved one has been issued a traffic ticket in Rhode Island, it is important that you work with a Rhode Island traffic offense attorney early on. Contact Ellison Law LLC's Rhode Island Island Traffic Offense Lawyers or call us at 401-230-5520 today.