If you or a loved one have been charged with a crime in Rhode Island, you may find yourself having difficulty navigating the Rhode Island court system. Some of the most common questions criminal defendants have involved sentences or punishments. The lawyers at our firm have answered some of these questions to help guide your discussions, negotiations, and decisions throughout the criminal process.


What is a filing?

A filing is a sentence typically reserved for first time offenders. When a defendant enters a nolo contendere plea and receives a filing, they are promising the court that they will stay out of trouble for one year. At the end of the filing period, the case is essentially dismissed. A filing is not a criminal conviction.

Violation of a Filing

If the defendant violates the terms of the filing, the case is resurrected and the defendant will be resentenced. In most violations of a filing, judges will “continue the defendant on the same,” meaning that they will be required to complete the filing. However, a violation of a filing could include a conversion to probation, a suspended sentence, or even jail time.

Expungement of a Filing

So long as the defendant does not violate the terms of the filing, the case is expunged from the defendant’s record one year from the date of the plea (three years if the case involved domestic violence). For more information on expunging a filing, please visit our Filing Expungement page.


What is probation?

Probation is the next step up from a filing in Rhode Island. Probation may be supervised, which requires checking in with a probation officer, or it may be unsupervised, which does not require check-ins. A nolo contendere plea followed by probation is not a criminal conviction in Rhode Island.

Violation of Probation

If a defendant is on probation and fails to keep the peace and be of good behavior and/or is arrested on a new offense, they will face a probation violation. An individual can also face a “technical probation violation” for failing to comply with certain conditions of their probation, such as paying restitution or completing counseling. A violation of probation amends the original sentence. Typically, the punishment for a probation violation includes a jail sentence, but it is possible to be continued on probation or receive a suspended sentence if the violation is not severe.

Expungement of Probation cases

If the defendant successfully completes probation (does not violate) and is a first time offender, the case would be eligible for expungement. However, there is a waiting period to expunge probation cases: five (5) years for misdemeanors and ten (10) years for felonies.

Deferred Sentence

What is a deferred sentence?

A deferred sentence applies only in felony matters, not misdemeanors, and can only be imposed after a plea of nolo contendere, not after a finding of guilt. A deferred sentence requires the defendant and the Attorney General’s Office to enter into a formal written contract or deferral agreement. At such time, the Superior Court will defer or postpone the sentence and will require the defendant to complete five (5) years of consecutive probation. If the probation is successfully completed, the case will not result in a criminal conviction.

Violation of a deferred sentence

As part of the deferred sentence agreement, the defendant agrees to keep the peace and be of good behavior. A violation of this condition or any other condition in the written deferral agreement will result in a violation. If the person violates the deferred sentence, the court may impose sentencing.

Expunging a deferred sentence

Upon the successful completion of a deferred sentence, the case is immediately eligible for expungement. For more on expunging a deferred sentence, please visit our Deferred Sentence Expungement page.

Suspended Sentence

What is a suspended sentence?

In Rhode Island, a suspended sentence is actually a jail sentence, but the jail time is postponed until the defendant serves his or her probation. If probation is successfully completed and there are no violations, the defendant will never be incarcerated. A suspended sentence is a criminal conviction.

Violation of a suspended sentence

If the defendant violates the terms of their probation while on a suspended sentence, they can be incarcerated to serve any remaining time on the suspended sentence.

Expunging a suspended sentence

Technically, an individual can expunge a suspended sentence if they are a first time offender and have waited the requisite time period after the completion of their sentence (5 years for misdemeanors and 10 years for felonies). However, it is rare that someone facing a suspended sentence is a first time offender, as usually the individual would have been sentenced to probation on previous cases.

Home Confinement

What is home confinement?

Home confinement is also a jail sentence, but the defendant is allowed to live at home, rather than at the Adult Correctional Institute (ACI). Home confinement is only ordered in rare circumstances upon a finding of eligibility and approval by the judge. Home confinement is a criminal conviction, as it is technically a jail sentence.

Violation of a home confinement

If the defendant violates the terms of their home confinement, they will immediately be imprisoned at the ACI for the remaining time on their sentence.


Finally, an individual can be ordered to complete a jail sentence at the ACI. Any term of imprisonment is a criminal conviction in Rhode Island.

Call our experienced lawyers today if you or a loved one is facing a criminal charge. Our attorneys will zealously fight for your rights to ensure the best possible outcome.