Rhode Island Alcohol Laws: Learn about Them

Rhode Island alcohol laws apply to its residents. But they also apply to its visitors. Don’t assume that Rhode Island laws are the same as those of other states. Knowing them can help avoid legal grief.

I. Minimum Ages

I.   Minimum Ages
II.  Alcohol Violations
III. Resources
IV.  Seek Good Advice
Young people may want to work part-time. The hospitality industry provides many jobs. Some involve working with alcohol. What’s the age for working in stores selling alcohol to drink off-site. For bartending? For serving in a venue selling alcohol to drink on-site?

Rhode Island alcohol laws permit adults to work in stores that sell alcohol for drinking elsewhere. That is, those age 18 or older may do this. Also for tending bar. As well as for serving in venues for drinking on-site.rhode island alcohol laws

Those of any age under 21 may drink alcohol if a parent or guardian provides it. Many parents do this to de-mystefy alcohol an teach respoinsible drinking.

For those under 21, buying alcohol is illegal. However, they may work with police to entice clerks into selling alcohol to entrapment them.

Using a false ID to buy alcohol is a crime. It is also a crime to make, sell, lend, or transfer a false ID. Sellers may legally seize IDs that appear to be false.

Those under 21 may not drive with a BAC higher than 0.02. They may not operate a boat with a BAC of 0.08 or higher

II. Alcohol Violations

Alcohol Sales

On-premise sale is allowed until 2 a.m. Off-premise sale is allowed from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday. Local laws can reduce the egal hours of sale.

The Rhode Island Liquor Liability Act requires commercial alcohol servers to serve it responsibly. If they don’t, they’re responsible for any resulting damages. These can include

  • rhode island alcohol lawsCompensation for permanent disability.
  • Compensation for loss of consortium. (That is, the right of association and companionship with one’s husband or wife.)
  • Lost wages.
  • Medical expenses.
  • Personal injury.
  • Property damage.
  • Wrongful death.

Lawsuits can be brought by those harmed by intoxicated customers. They can be brought by family members of anyone killed by the customer. Sometimes they can even be brought by the negligently-served customer.

Happy hours can’t be advertised in Rhode Island. And they can’t begin until 6 p.m.

Alcohol Purchases

The penalty for a first conviction of underage purchase of alcohol consists of three parts. One is a mandatory fine of $100 to $500 dollars. Another is a driver’s license suspension for 30 days. The third is 30 hours of community service

A second conviction results in a fine of $500 to $700. There’s also a license suspension for three months, and 40 hours of community service. Any third and later offenses are punished with fines of $750 to $1,000, and a one-year license suspension


The penalty for a first offense of illegal possession of alcohol by a person under age 21 is multi-part. It includes a fine up to $750, 30 hours of community service and at least 60 days of license suspension.

rhode island alcohol lawsA second conviction includes fines up to $750, 30 hours of community service, and 60 days of license suspension. The added penalty may be mandated alcohol abuse counseling.

For a third offense, the fine increases up to $950. Otherwise, the penalties are the same as for the second conviction.


The penalties for the illegal transportation of alcohol by a person under age 21 is simple. For a first offense, it’s a fine up to $250 and a license suspension for up to 30 days. The state penalizes a second offense with a fine of $500 and a license suspension for up to 90 days. For a third conviction the fines go up to $950 and the license suspension increases to one year.


rhode island alcohol laws


It’s illegal for those under age 21 to drive with a BAC of 0.02 or higher. They are charged with driving under the influence (DUI). There are three penalties for a first offense. One is license suspension for six to 12 months. Another is a fine of $500. The third is six to ten hours of mandated community service.

If the driver has a BAC of 0.08 or higher, the crime is driving while intoxicated (DWI). The penalties include the three listed above. However, there is a required special course on DWI along with alcohol and/or drug treatment.

Those age 21 or older who drive with a BAC of 0.08 are charged with DWI.

A DUI or DWI charge resulting from a crash causing serious injury or death is a felony.

The first conviction of a driver of any age that results in serious injury is treated harshly. The penalty has three parts. First is mandatory imprisonment for one to ten years. Second is a fine of $1,000 to $5,000. Third is a revoked license for up to two years.

rhode island alcohol laws
A first conviction of a driver of any age that results in death is punished more harshly. Mandatory imprisonment is for five to 15 years. The fine is $5,000 to $10,000. There is a five-year license revocation. Finally, there is alcohol or drug treatment.

Rhode Island alcohol laws prohibit drivers from drinking alcohol while operating a motor vehicle. On the other hand, it is legal for passengers drink.

Legal Rights

Rhode Island drinking laws require people to submit to alcohol testing if police request it. Refusing to do so is a right protected by the U.S. Constitution. However, the state punishes people who exercise that right.

rhode island alcohol laws

Community Service

The first incident in which driver of any age declines, the penalty is a $200 to $500. The decliner’s license is suspended for six months to one year. And the driver must spend 10 to 60 hours in community service.

Later occasions on which a driver declines, the punishment is higher fines, imprisonment, and other serious penalties.

However, this does not apply to refusing to take a field sobriety test. These tests are notoriously subjective and unreliable. Indeed, about one-in four eople with BACs of 0.00 fail them.

Not surprisingly, lawyers strongly urge drivers not to take them. They recommend politely declining, Learn much more at Never Take a Field Sobriety Test Say DUI Lawyers.


rhode island alcohol lawsRhode Island’s drinking laws prohibit operating a vessel with a BAC of 0.08 or higher. A first conviction for offenders with a BAC of less than 0.10 carries several penalties. There is a $500 boating assessment fee and a $100 to $250 fine. The operator’s boating license is suspended for up to 45 days. The offender must perform 10 to 60 hours of community service. Finally, the state requires completing a course on boating safety.

A first conviction for driving a boat with a BAC of 0.10 or higher carries separate penalties. The $500 boating safety assessment remains the same as does the community service. However, the operator’s license is suspended for three to six months. And the state requires completing a boating safety course and/or an alcohol and drug treatment course.

Any later convictions within a five year carry much higher penalties. They include up to five years imprisonment for and seizure of the vessel

Any offender who had a passenger 12 years old or younger faces imprisonment for up to one year.

Under Age 21

For offender under age 21, the state may also suspend their motor vehicle license for one year. It may also suspend their boating license for up to six more months, and suspend the vessel’s registration.

It’s illegal to drive a vessel if the state has suspended the license. Penalties include license suspension for two more years and imprisonment.

Rhode Island drinking laws require boat drivers to take an alcohol test if police request it. People have the Constitutional right to refuse. However, people are penalized for exercising their right against self-incrimination. The state punishes them with mandatory $300 fine and $700 assessment fees. It requires them to perform up to 60 hours of community service. Finally, it suspends their boating license for one year. Punishment increases greatly with later offenses.

III. Resources on Rhode Island Alcohol Laws

IV. Seek Good Advice

Laws sometimes seem simpler than they really are. They often have qualifications. They may conflict. Lawyers study law for years. Understanding laws is not a do-it-yourself project. Don’t rely on this site. Don’t rely on any non-lawyer.

Get information and advice about Rhode Island’s alcohol laws from an expert. That’s lawyer who holds a license in the state.

Alcohol attitudes and enforcement practices vary from place to place. For this reason, it’s a good idea to select one from your locale.