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  • Ann Sheeley

Should You Hire a Lawyer for a DUI in Rhode Island?

Updated: Apr 10, 2023

If you are arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) in Rhode Island, you are likely nervous about the long road ahead of you and potential consequences. There are many decisions you will need to make right away. One of the most important is whether you should hire an attorney. If you refuse the breathalyzer, do you still need a lawyer? Is it worth the money? Would a public defender be just as good in your situation? In this article, RI DUI Attorney Ann Sheeley explains your options, so you can make an informed decision and get the best outcome for your case.

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Option 1: Contact an Attorney for a Free Consultation

Rhode Island Drunk Driving laws and penalties are complicated, and each case is always unique. Therefore, getting the opinion of an experienced DUI lawyer can be valuable. The first thing you should always do after an arrest is speak with a local DUI defense attorney. Most offer a free consultation and since you are not obligated to hire the attorney, you have nothing to lose by reaching out for advice.

If possible, schedule a face-to-face consultation. Bring your police report and any other documents you have to your meeting to make the best use of your time. It might also help to bring a list of questions you want to get answered.

Option 2: Be Represented by a Public Defender

Should you choose NOT to hire a lawyer for your DUI charge, or you can't afford to hire one, the court can appoint a Public Defender to represent you. Public defenders handle many criminal cases, including DUIs, which means they are quite familiar with Rhode Island’s laws and are capable of defending you.

However, settling for a court-appointed public defender versus hiring your own DUI attorney has its downsides. IT IS IMPORTANT TO KNOW THAT A PUBLIC DEFENDER CANNOT REPRESENT YOU AT THE TRAFFIC TRIBUNAL, and that it is very important to coordinate the charges at the Traffic Tribunal and the District Court for you to obtain the best outcome. A DUI arrest normally results in two separate proceedings: 1) criminal court case and 2) an administrative case with the Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal. Public defenders will only represent you in criminal court. Therefore, you will have to handle the Traffic Tribunal proceedings on your own.

It is also important to know that you don't get to choose your public defender, like you do when you hire an attorney. Public defenders have large caseloads. At Sheeley Law, we frequently get calls from defendants halfway through their trial who feel like their case isn’t get enough attention. A reputable law firm like Sheeley Law will make your case a priority, be available to answer your questions and guide you every step of the way.

Option 3: Hire an Experienced DUI Attorney to Protect and Defend You

A DUI conviction can severely impact your life in both the short and long term. Depending upon the circumstances of your case and your prior alcohol-related driving offenses, penalties for drunk driving could include jail time, thousands of dollars in fines and court costs, driver’s license suspension, an Ignition Interlock Device, and a criminal record. Even if you refuse the breathalyzer, hiring an experienced DUI attorney is worth your time and money in the long run. Here’s why:

1) DUI Attorneys Know DUI Laws

One of the primary advantages of hiring an experienced DUI lawyer is that they are knowledgeable about the ever-changing laws and know how to navigate the court system. As soon as you are charged with a DUI, you will be forced to make quick and important decisions that will impact every outcome of your case. In addition, you will face numerous court dates and deadlines that you cannot miss. A skilled attorney will make sure you meet all the legal requirements, offer important advice on how best to proceed based on your particular situation, and stand by your side throughout the entire process.

2) You’ll Have a Better Chance of Getting Your Charges Reduced or Dismissed with an Attorney

When you hire a skilled DUI attorney like Ann Sheeley, a considerable amount of time will be spent reviewing and investigating all the evidence in your case to prepare an effective defense. Reputable attorneys look at all angles and uncover ways to argue the circumstances surrounding their client’s arrest with the goal of having the charges dismissed or reduced. For example, was their probable cause for getting pulled over? Did the police properly administer your sobriety test? Were your rights violated? Police officers have strict rules they must adhere to and their failure to do so is a strong defense to present in court.

Hiring an attorney can also put you in a better position to expunge those charges from your record at a later date. <Learn more about Expungement>

Importantly, with proper legal representation, you will increase your chances of the judge awarding you limited driving privileges - called a “hardship license” - which allows you to drive to and from work, school or medical appointments.

3) DUI Attorneys Will Defend AND Protect You

Always remember, you have rights under both Rhode Island and federal law that need to be protected. It is not uncommon for police officers to make mistakes or violate your rights. As an experienced attorney that handles DUI cases, Ann Sheeley is not here to judge you. Rather, Sheeley Law is only here to defend your rights and get you the results and help you need to get on with your life.

In Conclusion

Facing a DUI conviction without an attorney that specifically handles drunk driving offenses can be very difficult. Whether you refused a breathalyzer test or blew over the Rhode Island legal limit of .08, before you make any decisions, you should speak with a local attorney. More often than not, this is the best decision you can make. Not only could it save you money in the long run, but it can greatly improve the outcome of your case and alleviate a lot of stress that comes with being arrested for drunk driving.

Attorney Ann Sheeley has more than 30 years of criminal defense experience, including representing clients in DUI cases throughout Rhode Island. We are available 24/7 to answer your questions and provide you a free consultation. Please call 401-619-5555 or email


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