Appeals filed in Rhode Island Chemical Test Refusal cases are filed in the Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal.  Any Motorist who is "aggrieved" of a conviction or a sentence can file an appeal from that decision seeking relief from an appellate court.  

There are limited grounds upon which a Motorist can appeal a decision rendered by a Judge or Magistrate of the Traffic Tribunal.  Importantly, the appellate court is prohibited from substituting its judgement for the judgement of the lower court as to the weight of the evidence and as to questions of fact.  The appellate court can only reverse or modify the decision of the trial court if it determines that:

  • The decision was in violation of statutory or constitutional authority;
  • The decision was in excess of the statutory authority of the judge or magistrate;
  • It was made upon unlawful procedure;
  • The decision is affected by other error of law;
  • The decision is clearly erroneous in view of the reliable, probative, and substantial evidence on the whole record; or
  • The decision was arbitrary or capricious or characterized by abuse of discretion or clearly unwarranted exercise of discretion.

When filing an appear of a Traffic Tribunal decision in a Chemical Test Refusal case, the appeal paperwork must be filed with the Traffic Tribunal within the 5 days after the decision.

Chemical Test Refusal Appellate Procedure

If a Motorist is convicted and sentenced in a Chemical Test Refusal case, the Motorist has 5 days to file an appeal of that decision in the Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal.  Once that is complete, the appellant (the appealing party) must obtain a copy of the trial transcript and file a brief in support of their appeal.  The transcript and the brief must be filed with the Traffic Tribunal within 45 days of the trial judge's decision.  Once those documents have been filed, the appeal will be docketed for oral argument before a three judge panel of the Traffic Tribunal.  After the oral argument is complete, the parties will await a written decision of the appellate issues by the three judge panel of the Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal.

After a decision has been rendered by the three judge panel of the Traffic Tribunal, a Motorist can file a further appeal to the Rhode Island District Court for an additional level of appellate review.  At this point, a single Judge of the Rhode Island District Court convenes with the parties to discuss the legal issues involved, the trial in the Traffic Tribunal, as well as the Traffic Tribunal Appellate Panel's decision.  The District Court Judge will then take the matter under advisement and render a written appellate decision regarding the issues raised by the parties.

Finally, the Motorist, if aggrieved by the decisions of the Appellate Panel and the District Court Judge, can seek relief in the Rhode Island Supreme Court by filing an application for Supreme Court review.  This is extremely rare, but certainly a possibility as the Rhode Island Supreme Court has addressed Chemical Test Refusal Cases on a number of different occasions recently.

Attorney Matthew Marin's Appellate Experience

While our office handles hundreds of Chemical Test Refusal cases each year, we handle an extremely small number of Chemical Test Refusal appellate cases each year.  This is, in part, due to our extremely cautious eye when it comes to appellate issues.  Many issues are extremely frustrating to Motorist, and in many cases they have a point.  But, when deciding to take on an appellate case we focus our attention exclusively on the legal issues that will be entertained by the Appellate Panel and/or the District Court Judge.  Typically, the cases that we handle on appeal deal with legal issues that are very particular and involve nuanced technical legal defenses.  Unfortunately, the appellate rules do not allow us to re-litigate the facts of the case or attempt to convince the appellate panel that the Trial Judge as simply wrong.  This results in our office taking on an extremely small number of Chemical Test Refusal appellate cases each year.

Follow this link to review a Chemical Test Refusal Appeal Attorney Marin argued and won in 2011:

https://www.courts.ri.gov/Courts/rhodeislandtraffictribunal/Decisions/T11-0034.pdf