Rhode Island Repeat Traffic Offender Statute and Suspended Licenses

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This summer, Governor Carcieri singed the “Colin Foote Act” into effect which creates a repeat offender statute for traffic violations. The Act was proposed following the death of Colin Foote, a young man who was killed while riding his motorcycle. The woman who struck and killed Mr. Foote, had nineteen (19!) prior moving violations (all within a matter of years) and was cited again at the scene where she killed Mr. Foote. This was obviously a terrible tragedy for the family and they have used their pain to try and enact positive change in RI. There is even a billboard on Route 95 and a blog maintained by the family in rememberance of Colin.

Many people with questionable driving records, unaware of the new Colin Foote Act, may be surprised to show up at the Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal and find out that they are in danger of losing their license for up to one year! This is, in fact, true. The prosecution was not trying to scare or bluff you.

Under the new statute, the Traffic Tribunal may suspend or revoke a license for up to one year for any person guilty of four (4) moving violations within an 18 month period. This punishment is in addition to the ordinary penalties and fees associated with the moving violation. The moving violations subject to this statute are:

  • (1) 31-13-4. Obedience to devices.
  • (2) 31-14-1. Reasonable and prudent speeds.
  • (3) 31-14-2. Prima facie limits.
  • (4) 31-14-3. Conditions requiring reduced speeds.
  • (5) 31-15-5. Overtaking on the right.
  • (6) 31-15-11. Laned roadways.
  • (7) 31-15-12. Interval between vehicles.
  • (8) 31-15-16. Use of emergency break-down lane for travel.
  • (9) 31-17-4. Vehicle entering stop or yield intersection.
  • (10) 31-20- 9. Obedience to stop signs.
  • (11) 31-27.1- 3. “Aggressive driving” defined.

Generally, moving violations are not serious matters and may or may not require the assistance of a lawyer. If, however, you are subject to the punishment of the new repeat offender statute, it is in your best interest to speak with an experienced attorney to assist your defense. The loss of your driving license is a very serious punishment that may cause you to lose your job or add hours to your day relying on public transportation. It also seriously impacts your family, as well as your personal and social life.

Most of all – be conscious of how you are driving. Keep speeds reasonable and avoid aggressive driving. This new statute should not be seen merely as a new punishment from the State, but as a reminder that driving is very dangerous and we must act appropriately behind the wheel to avoid unnecessary tragedy.