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Rhode Island Attorney

Domestic Violence

Domestic Violence

If you have been charged with Domestic Violence please call or email me as soon as possible. Like nearly every other type of criminal charge, it is critical to be proactive and take some action to defend yourself before your next court date.

Domestic Violence related charges are amongst the most common criminal charges in Rhode Island. Show up in any of our state’s District Courts on any day of the week and you will find multiple cases of criminal charges involving Domestic Violence.

If you have been charged with a Domestic Violence related offense, the smartest thing you can do is to immediately find and speak to an attorney who knows how to defend these types of cases. The stigma attached to being convicted of a Domestic Violence crime are HUGE

Domestic Violence related charges are tremendously controversial for a lot of reasons, one of which includes the mandatory arrest aspect of them. Pursuant to the Rhode Island Domestic Violence Prevention Act whenever the police are dispatched to a potential Domestic Violence related event, it is the officer’s duty to determine: (1) whether there is probable cause to believe that a Domestic Violence related offense occurred, and (2) the identity of the primary aggressor.

Once the officer has found probable cause to believe that a domestic violence related crime has occurred that officer MUST arrest whoever the officer deems to be the primary aggressor. Even if the alleged victim does not want the other person arrested, the police will go ahead and make the arrest anyway. In fact, the decisions concerning whether or not to arrest and whether or not to prosecute are specifically taken away from the alleged victim. It is entirely up to the police and the prosecutor to decide whether or not the case will be prosecuted.

Family and Household Members

Under Rhode Island law Domestic Violence is not, by itself, a crime. Instead, Domestic Violence is a penalty enhancer. It is defined as any crime committed by one family or household member against another family or household member.

The Rhode Island Domestic Violence Prevention Act defines family or household members to include the following groups of people:

  • Spouses
  • Former spouses
  • Adult persons related by blood or marriage
  • Adult persons who reside together
  • Adult persons who have resided together in the past three (3) years
  • Adults who have a child in common, and
  • Adults who are or have been in a substantive dating relationship within the past six (6) months. Whether the relationship is deemed substantive is determined by the length of the relationship, the type of relationship, the frequency of interaction between the couple.

Domestic Violence Crimes

The Rhode Island Domestic Violence Prevention Act includes the following crimes when committed by one family or household member against another:

  1. Misdemeanor and Felony Assault and Battery
  2. Vandalism
  3. Disorderly Conduct
  4. Trespassing
  5. Kidnapping
  6. Sexual Assault
  7. Homicide
  8. Violation of Protective and No Contact Orders, and
  9. Stalking.

No Contact Order

One of the most difficult aspects of domestic violence related charges is the issuance of a No Contact Order. Once an arrest has been made the person who is charged is issued a binding No Contact Order. This order specifically prohibits the person arrested from contacting the alleged victim of the crime. It means no phone calls, no emails, no text messages, no social media contact. Not only does the No Contact Order prohibit direct contact, it also prohibits indirect contact. This means that the person arrested cannot pass a message to the alleged victim through a third party, such as another family member or friend.


The penalties for Domestic Violence related offenses differ for felonies and misdemeanors.

Any person who admits to committing or is convicted of a misdemeanor Domestic Violence offense will be required by the sentencing court to attend a batterer’s intervention program. Additionally, if the victim wants to retain the protection of the No Contact Order, the court will extend it for up to one (1) year. If the victim wants the No Contact Order terminated, it is entirely up to the sentencing judge to make the final decision about whether to extend the order or terminate it.

Any person convicted for a second Domestic Violence offense must be sentenced to no less than ten (10) days in prison.

Any person convicted of a third or subsequent related Domestic Violence offense must be sentenced to no less than one (1) year to serve in prison.