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2/2/2024 Sens. Raptakis, Burke, Tikoian and Reps. Serpa, Noret hold press conference on drunk driving legislation
STATE HOUSE – – Sens. Leonidas P. Raptakis, John P. Burke and David P. Tikoian and Reps. Patricia A. Serpa and Thomas E. Noret held a press conference at the State House to call attention to several bills that strengthen the penalties for drunk, impaired and reckless driving offenses. 
Sens. Victoria Gu (D-Dist. 38, Charlestown, Westerly, South Kingstown) and Mark P. McKenney (D-Dist. 30, Warwick) and Reps. Justine A. Caldwell (D-Dist. 30, East Greenwich, West Greenwich), Jason Knight (D-Dist. 67, Barrington, Warren), Gregory J. Costantino (D-Dist. 44, Lincoln, Smithfield, Johnston) and Deputy Speaker Raymond A. Hull (D-Dist. 6, Providence, North Providence) were also in attendance.

The Rhode Island Police Chiefs’ Association, represented by Chief Sid Wordell, West Warwick Town Councilor Mark Dennison, Wesley Pennington and Jennifer O’Neil of Mothers Against Drunk Driving RI and Cathy Andreozzi of Tori Lynn Andreozzi Foundation also participated in the press conference. 

“Drunk driving offenses are becoming an almost daily occurrence in our state and people are being seriously injured and killed due to the reckless and selfish actions of individuals who continue to get behind the wheel when impaired.  The State Police are sounding the alarm bell that Rhode Island has a serious drunk driving problem and the only way to deter this terrible and dangerous behavior is to stiffen the consequences for driving drunk,” said Senator Raptakis (D-Dist. 33, Coventry, West Greenwich).

“Every year we are faced with more senseless tragedy as our residents continue to get hurt, maimed or killed in accidents caused by driving under the influence.  Too many of our children, our family members, friends and neighbors have been taken away from us too early due to the criminal actions of those who get behind a wheel while drunk or high.  These bills will send a stiff message that this selfish and destructive behavior will be met with severe consequences, hopefully sparing more families from living with the heartbreaking reality of losing a loved one to a drunk driver,” said Representative Serpa (D-Dist. 27, West Warwick, Coventry).
“H-5699 was submitted with the intent to STOP incentivizing ‘leaving the scene of an accident’ when an operator knows they've been drinking and doesn't want to face the consequences and or stigma of a DUI. The penalties are substantially less and there is no lookback provision when a coward leaves the scene of an accident.  The penalties should be equal to those of DUI or even greater!” said Representative Noret (D-Dist. 25, Coventry, West Warwick).

“The disturbing problem of drunk driving in Rhode Island seems to be only getting worse and these bills are desperately needed to reverse this alarming and troubling trend.  I urge all of my colleagues to support this package of legislation in order to keep our loved ones and roads safe from drunk driving,” said Senator Sosnowski (D-Dist. 37, South Kingstown).

“The serious and devastating problem of drunk and impaired driving is not going away so we must redouble our efforts to stamp out this atrocious and damaging behavior.  I am proud to cosponsor these bills once again in hopes that they make our roads safer for our families and friends,” said Senator Burke (D-Dist. 9, West Warwick).
“As former Police Chief and Major on the Rhode Island State Police, one who has personally seen my fair share of carnage from DUI wrecks, I ask you when is enough, enough?  It is our responsibility, collectively, to ensure Rhode Island roadways are safe and our communities remain free from the tragedy of DUI-related fatalities.  We must act and institute a multiprong approach to curtail drunk and drugged driving,” said Senator Tikoian (D-Dist. 22, Smithfield, North Providence, Lincoln).
The following bills, some of which were introduced last session and will be reintroduced in the 2024 session, were highlighted at the press conference:
  • 2024-S 2026 / 2023-H 5212, introduced by Senator Raptakis and Representative Serpa, would require that the license plates of a vehicle be confiscated by a police officer if the owner was arrested for driving while their license was suspended, revoked or cancelled for refusing to submit to a chemical test or for operating under the influence.
  • 2024-S 2024 / 2023-H 5213, introduced by Senator Tikoian and Representative Serpa, would increase the sentences, fines or both for driving so as to endanger, resulting in death or personal injury. 
  • 2024-S 2023 / 2023-H 5216, introduced by Senator Raptakis and Representative Serpa, would extend the lookback period for repeat offenses involving driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs and for repeat offenses related to failure or refusal to submit to chemical tests from five years to ten years.
  • 2023-S 0737 / 2023-H 6028, sponsored by Senator Sosnowski and Representative Serpa would provide for a single, increased range of penalties for all driving offenses which result in serious bodily injury or death. 
  • 2024-S 2025 / 2023-H 5578, introduced by Senator Raptakis and Representative Noret, would allow a judge to order the impoundment of the license plates of an individual convicted of the offenses listed in this section. Upon a finding by the court of undue hardship to the dependents of the offender the court may order the plates not be impounded. A subsequent conviction shall result in a mandatory impoundment of the plate.
  • 2023-S 0899 / 2023-H 5890, sponsored by Senator Sosnowski and Representative Noret, would clarify and separate the different criminal penalties for first and subsequent convictions for reckless driving. 
  • 2023-S 0331 / 2023-H 5699, sponsored by Senator Burke and Representative Noret, would increase the penalties for a first offense of leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death to a minimum five years in incarceration, a minimum of $10,000 and a minimum license revocation of five years. 
The press conference can be viewed here:

Photo: Rep. Patricia A. Serpa and Sen. Leonidas P. Raptakis at the press conference highlighting legislation that strengthens penalties for drunk and impaired driving offenses.

For more information, contact:
Andrew Caruolo, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903