Arrests for Domestic Violence crimes are very common in Rhode Island. Simple arguments between family members or romantic partners can often escalate quickly and before you know it, the police are involved and someone is arrested.
This blog will explain everything you need to know about Domestic Violence arrests in Rhode Island.
What is Categorized as a Domestic Relationship in Rhode Island for Domestic Violence Purposes?
In Rhode Island, crimes are charged as “domestic” if the defendant (the person arrested) and the alleged victim of the crime are related by blood or marriage. Blood relatives are generally parents, siblings, and children. Relationships based on marriage can include spouses and ex-spouses. Other relationships that can be considered domestic are people who have a child together, people who live together as roommates, and people are in a dating relationship.
What is Considered a Domestic Violence Crime in Rhode Island?
Many different types of crimes can be charged as domestic violence including:
- Disorderly Conduct
- Simple assault and/or battery
- Felony assault
- Assault by strangulation
- Sexual assault
- Trespassing and or/ unlawful entry
- Violation of a No Contact Order
What Happens After a Domestic Violence Arrest in Rhode Island?
Under Rhode Island law, arrests for domestic violence are mandatory if police believe a crime was committed. The police will have to determine who will be arrested based on the facts and circumstances presented to them at the time they arrive at the scene. Sometimes one party is arrested and sometimes both parties are arrested.
Once someone is arrested for a domestic violence crime in Rhode Island, they are automatically ordered not to have any contact with the “victim” of the crime. A no contact order makes it illegal for the defendant to contact the victim in any way, including in person contact, third party contact, and phone, electronic or social media contact.
This no contact order will remain in effect until one of the following occurs:
- The victim goes to court and asks a judge to vacate (remove) the no contact order and the judge grants the request;
- The case gets dismissed and as a result the no contact order is terminated;
- The defendant is sentenced on the domestic violence charge and his/her sentence is over.
Court Proceedings for Domestic Violence Crimes in Rhode Island
Like all crimes in Rhode Island, the first step one will encounter in court after a domestic violence arrest is an arraignment. This is the first time you will go before a judge and you will hear the allegations against you. During an arraignment, the judge will ask if you wish to plead nolo contendere (no contest) or not guilty. If you plead not guilty, bail will be set and your case will be scheduled for a pretrial conference if it is a misdemeanor and a screening/PAC date if it is a felony. If you plead guilty, the judge will sentence you and the case will be over.
Once your domestic violence case is scheduled for a pretrial conference with a prosecutor, the prosecutor will likely reach out to the “victim” to get their input on the case. Sometimes in the heat of the moment, people call the police without the knowledge or intention that someone will get arrested. They may tell the prosecutor that they do not wish to see the defendant prosecuted or that they do not wish to testify. If there are no other witnesses to the crime, the prosecutor may decide that they cannot prosecute the case and might ultimately dismiss it. Other times, the victim may wish to see the defendant prosecuted and may give the prosecutor their input on sentencing.
At some point during the pre-trial phase of the case, the prosecutor may give the defense an offer to resolve the case. The defendant has the right to accept or reject any offer. If they accept it, they will enter a plea. If they reject it, the case may proceed to a trial at a later date.
What Are the Penalties for Domestic Violence Crimes in Rhode Island?
Domestic violence crimes are taken very seriously by police departments, prosecutors and judges. Under Rhode Island General Laws 12-29-5, anyone convicted of a domestic violence crime in Rhode Island will face mandatory penalties, in addition to those prescribed for the underlying charge. These mandatory penalties include:
- a batterer’s intervention program (a 20 week course at the expense of the defendant)
- a no contact order for the duration of defendant’s sentence
- a $125.00 assessment
- Prohibition from purchasing, owning, carrying, transporting, or possessing a firearm.
As in any criminal case, the penalties that someone will face will depend on one’s criminal record and the facts and circumstances of the case.
Defenses to Domestic Violence Crimes in Rhode Island
There are many defenses that can be used in domestic violence cases! Some strategies our attorneys use in court to help defendants beat their charges include:
- Challenging the “domestic” nature of the relationship
- Advocating for the client to do counseling (alcohol, substance abuse, anger management) for a dismissal
- Confirming that the victim actually wants to move forward with the prosecution of the charges
- Examining the facts and circumstances leading up to the arrest: was the defendant actually the primary aggressor, were they acting in self defense?
Each domestic violence case is unique and requires a trained and skilled domestic violence lawyer to determine the best strategy possible.
Let the Domestic Violence Attorneys at Abilheira Law Defend You Today!
At Abilheira Law, our dedicated RI domestic violence lawyers are here to help. Contact us today to get us started on your case! We will be by your side from arrest to trial, helping advocate for the best possible outcome.
Call now, 401-245-5100 for a free and confidential consultation.