Driving Offenses Rarely Lead To Prison Time In RI


So many people in Rhode Island are charged with driving on suspended or revoked licenses each year – the exact figure isn't tracked but easily reaches into the thousands – that without judges and prosecutors practicing leniency, those cases “could really paralyze district courtrooms around the state,” Michael Healey, spokesman for Attorney General Patrick Lynch, tells the Providence Journal. Some egregious offenders go to jail, but not very often or for long.

Most people don't lose their licenses for being dangerous drivers, says Jay Sullivan, an assistant attorney general and the state's traffic safety resources prosecutor. They lose them for not paying tickets or court fines, or for allowing their insurance to lapse. “Are you going to build another prison for people who drive on suspended licenses?” he asks. “You only have a limited number of cells. Are you going to put someone in who is driving on a suspended license or breaking into houses?” Some cases involving repeat offenders have police departments urging legislators to get tough on motorists who habitually drive on suspended licenses. “Nothing ever happens to these people,” says Scituate Deputy Police Chief Stephen Lang. “Where's the deterrent? All they get is another slap on the wrist.”

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