Rhode Island Domestic Violence
The state of Rhode Island has laws in place that prohibit acts of domestic violence and if you violate these laws by assaulting, threatening, intimidating or otherwise harming a member of your family or household, you could face misdemeanor or felony criminal charges. Although domestic violence is not a standalone crime in Rhode Island, the state imposes enhanced penalties on offenders convicted of crimes like assault or disorderly conduct when they are committed by one family or household member against another family or household member. If you have been accused of committing an act of domestic violence in Rhode Island, you have important rights, including the right to legal representation. Your entire life can change in the blink of an eye, so don’t wait to retain qualified legal counsel. Contact a reputable Rhode Island domestic violence defense attorney today.
Rhode Island Domestic Violence Law
Rhode Island domestic violence laws make it a crime to commit violent or threatening acts against a family or household member. This includes spouses and former spouses, adults related by blood or marriage, adults who are currently living together or who lived together in the past three years, people who are or have been in a substantive dating or engagement relationship within the past year, and people who have a child in common (R.I. Gen. Laws § 12-29-2(b)). Enacted in 1988, the purpose of the Rhode Island Domestic Violence Prevention Act is to “recognize the importance of domestic violence as a serious crime against society and to assure victims of domestic violence the maximum protection from abuse which the law and those who enforce the law can provide” (R.I. Gen. Laws § 12-29-1). Under this act, any of the following criminal offenses (and others) can constitute domestic violence so long as the relationship between the offender and the alleged victim is one covered by the Domestic Violence Prevention Act:
- Simple assault or battery – R.I. Gen. Laws § 11-5-3
- Felony assault – R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 11-5-1 and 11-5-4
- Sexual assault – R.I. Gen. Laws § 11-37
- Disorderly conduct – R.I. Gen. Laws § 11-45-1
- Vandalism – R.I. Gen. Laws § 11-44-1
- Stalking – R.I. Gen. Laws § 11-59-1
- Arson – R.I. Gen. Laws § 11-4-2
- Cyberstalking and cyberharassment – R.I. Gen. Laws § 11-52-4.2
- Burglary and unlawful entry – R.I. Gen. Laws § 11-8-1
- Homicide – R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 11-23-1 and 11-23-3
- Trespass – R.I. Gen. Laws § 11-44-26
- Kidnapping – R.I. Gen. Laws § 11-26-1
- Electronic tracking of motor vehicles – R.I. Gen. Laws § 11-69-1
Penalties for Rhode Island Domestic Violence
Because Rhode Island employs such a broad definition of domestic violence and does not have separate criminal statutes penalizing acts of domestic violence, the penalties associated with such acts vary a great deal depending on the underlying criminal offense. For instance, if you are found guilty of committing simple assault or battery, a violation of R.I. Gen. Laws § 11-5-3 and a misdemeanor offense, you face a possible punishment consisting of imprisonment for up to one year and a fine of up to $1,000, or both. If the alleged victim of the assault is a family or household member and you have a prior domestic violence conviction, you could face enhanced penalties. For instance, R.I. Gen. Laws § 12-29-5 states that, “Every person convicted of an offense punishable as a misdemeanor involving domestic violence as defined in § 12-29-2 shall:
(i) For a second violation, be imprisoned for a term of not less than ten (10) days and not more than one year.
(ii) For a third and subsequent violation, be deemed guilty of a felony and be imprisoned for a term of not less than one year and not more than ten (10) years.”
The punishment for a felony domestic violence conviction in Rhode Island is far more severe and may include time in prison. If you are found guilty of stalking, a violation of R.I. Gen. Laws § 11-59-1 and a felony offense, the law states that you shall be imprisoned for not more than five years, fined not more than $10,000, or both. If you are found guilty of first-degree sexual assault, a violation of R.I. Gen. Laws § 11-37-2 and a much more serious felony crime, you could be imprisoned for at least 10 years up to a possible life sentence. If you are convicted of a domestic violence-related crime in Rhode Island, including violation of a domestic violence protective order, you may also be required to pay a $125 assessment fee and participate in a batterer’s intervention program.
Arrests Without Warrant in Domestic Violence Cases
There are a number of things that set domestic violence offenses apart from other non-domestic criminal offenses in Rhode Island. Generally speaking, in order to arrest someone for a crime in Rhode Island, the police must have an arrest warrant or actually observe the crime taking place. This is not the case with domestic violence offenses. When the police respond to a domestic violence situation in Rhode Island, they have the authority to make an arrest without a warrant and take into custody any person accused of committing an act of domestic violence, so long as they have probable cause to believe that any of the following has occurred within the previous 24 hours (even if they didn’t observe the alleged crime): a felonious assault, an assault that caused the alleged victim to suffer bodily injury, a physical act that was intended to put the alleged victim in fear of imminent serious bodily injury or death, or violation of a protective order or no-contact order.
Contact a Rhode Island Domestic Violence Defense Lawyer for Help
Domestic violence offenses are some of the most commonly charged criminal offenses in Rhode Island and they carry some of the harshest penalties upon conviction. If you are facing charges for domestic violence in Rhode Island, a knowledgeable Rhode Island criminal defense attorney can help you understand the nature and severity of the charges against you and navigate the court process, all while protecting your legal rights. If you are found guilty of a domestic violence-related crime in Rhode Island, you could serve time in jail or prison, plus face substantial fines and mandatory counseling or treatment. For more information about Rhode Island domestic violence crimes or to learn about your legal rights when charged with domestic assault or another domestic violence-related offense, consult a knowledgeable Rhode Island domestic violence defense lawyer today.