In recent years, the Rhode Island legislature has strengthened its position on domestic violence. Punishments have been stiffened and these cases are handled extremely seriously by prosecutors and judges. Notably, a significant amount of prosecutorial and judicial discretion has been taken away, requiring judges to impose strict penalties in cases of domestic violence in RI. For example, a charge of domestic simple assault will be handled much more seriously, with much greater penalties, than a simple assault without the domestic component.
Rhode Island lists sixteen (16) offenses that can be “domestic” crimes, including assault, disorderly conduct, vandalism, stalking, and trespass. A criminal charge is categorized as “domestic” in Rhode Island when the alleged offense involves a “family or household member,” meaning a spouse, former spouse, adults related by blood or marriage, adults presently residing together, adults who have resided together in the past three (3) years, persons who have a child together, and persons who have been in a substantive dating or engagement relationship within the past year. RIGL § 12-29-2.
When a defendant is convicted of a domestic violence charge or pleads nolo contendere to such a charge, a Rhode Island judge must order the defendant to participate in a “batterers intervention program.” This is a statutory requirement and cannot be waived by the prosecutor or judge. RIGL § 12-29-5. Failing to complete this requirement will result in a violation of the sentence.
A batterers intervention program is a weekly group meeting, held for 20 consecutive weeks, and led by trained professional facilitators. Each meeting lasts for about two hours. At the weekly sessions, batterers are taught to identify abusive behaviors and learn to react in a non-abusive manner.
If you’ve been charged with a crime in Rhode Island, call our experienced criminal defense lawyers today.