New RI law raises penalty for driving drunk with child in car

(MGN)

A new law in Rhode Island will increase the penalty for being convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs with a child in the vehicle.

The bill, which was sponsored by Senate Majority Whip Maryellen Goodwin and Rep. Robert Nardolillo III, was signed into law by Gov. Gina Raimondo on Friday.

“Drunken or drugged driving becomes something much worse when a child is in the car,” Goodwin, a Democrat who represents District 1 in Providence, said. “Besides threatening his or her own safety and that of everyone else on the road, that driver is risking the life of a child for whom he or she is supposed to be responsible -- a child who has no choice or control over their presence in that car. That’s a more serious crime that warrants stiffer penalties. Tougher sentences will send a strong message that makes people think twice about endangering kids in this way.”

Nardolilo shared similar sentiments.

“These children are innocent bystanders caught up in the destructive decisions made by their parents and caregivers,” said Nardolillo, a Republican who represents District 28 in Coventry. “There needs to be more serious consequences. This legislation would send a clear message that if you endanger the life of a child because of your choices, there will be repercussions.”

The legislation adds an immediate license suspension and fine for a first offense. The violation had already triggered an additional sentence of up to a year in prison that can't be suspended or deferred.

A subsequent conviction would become a felony, punishable by up to five years in prison, license suspension, fines and other penalties.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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