Skip to Content Top

Rhode Island Domestic Violence Law - The Basics


Domestic criminal cases are crimes that involve people who are married, roommates, have children in common, and/or people in serious a dating relationship. Historically, the police tended to ignore these crimes because they were considered to be private matters between intimate adults. Because of that dynamic, many serious domestic crimes were not prosecuted.

At some point the Rhode Island General Assembly decided that these cases needed more attention and it created special rules and procedures for the police and the courts. Those rules affect how a Rhode Island criminal defense lawyer handles these charges.

The number one difference between a domestic charge and any other criminal charge is that the police are REQUIRED to arrest a person when they have probable cause to believe a domestic incident has occurred. In all other crimes the police have the discretion to decide when and how to make an arrest, or even to do it in the first place. But not in a domestic case. It does not matter how minor the crime is or whether or not the victim wants the defendant arrested, the police have no choice about making an arrest.

Another difference is that once the defendant has been arrested, the court will impose a no contact order between the parties. The judge will almost always impose a no contact order which will require the person charged to stay away from the alleged victim and even move out of their house if he or she lives with the victim. The order can create problems for the person charged in that they will often need to change their living situation for at least a few weeks if not a few months while the charge is adjudicated.

If the charged person makes contact with the victim while that no contact order is in place, more problems can arise. Any violation of the no contact order can be charged as a new crime and a bail violation. The bail violation could, and often does, land the defendant in jail for at least 10 days and up to 90. The contact doesn't have to be in person; a single text message can trigger a charge.

Finally, if the case is disposed with a plea bargain or a finding of guilt after trial, the defendant will have to complete a batterers intervention class along with any other conditions such as probation. Even if the offense did not involve any violence (disorderly conduct, a no contact order violation, etc.) the defendant will have to take the classes which are lengthy and take many months to complete.

Because of these elements, domestic charges must be treated seriously. Any person charged with a domestic offense really should not go it alone. They need to hire an experienced Rhode Island based criminal defense lawyer.

Share To:

Recent Work