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Rhode island Criminal Law embodies the statutes defining criminal offenses, including how offenders are to be charged, tried, and punished. If you are facing criminal charges in Rhode Island such as DUI / DWI (Drunk Driving) charges, narcotics possession, or intent, assault, homicide, burglary, rape, or any other criminal charge, Contact our office for a free, initial consultation to discuss your case. We have extensive Criminal law experience in the State of Rhode Island. The following is general information re Rhode Island Criminal Law, and should help to answer some of your questions concerning your rights and options.
Rhode Island Juvenile Matters - An Overview
Juvenile law deals with crimes committed by children. The maximum age varies from state to state, but the maximum age for a juvenile offender in Rhode Island is Twenty One. Governmental bodies, including the federal government, states, and cities, prosecute all types of crimes committed by children, from traffic violations to felonies like rape and murder. If your child has been charged with a crime, it is essential that you seek legal counsel from an experienced Rhode Island juvenile defense attorney at once so that you can preserve his or her rights and future.
Children involved in juvenile court matters have many of the same rights their parents would have if they were accused of a crime. These rights include the right to remain silent, the right to cross-examine witnesses against them, and the right to be represented by an attorney. Juveniles often have additional rights - in Rhode Island juvenile court records are not open to the public, but are sealed, so that no one will be able to learn about a juvenile record. A juvenile defense attorney can explain and clarify your local practices and take some of the mystery out of a frightening situation.
What To Do If Your Child Is Arrested
There can be few more frightening or intimidating telephone calls that a parent can receive than one saying that his or her child has been arrested. The first reaction of most parents is to panic. What is a parent to do?! The first, and seemingly hardest, task is to avoid giving in to that panic. Your child needs your help now, as much as at any other time in his or her life. Panicking helps neither of you. To help you and your child in this most difficult time, you should consult an experienced juvenile defense attorney.
The second task is to keep the disciplinarian in you from clouding your judgment! Many parents of children who are arrested for relatively minor offenses, such as vandalism or shoplifting, are inclined to let the justice system "teach a lesson." Although all children need discipline, a child who is under arrest faces a system that is going to be far more frightening and intimidating than any he or she has ever encountered before. Your child needs your support.
Rhode Island Parental Liability
Rhode Island has adopted laws that make parents responsible for the actions of their children. Some impose criminal liability on parents, and other states provide that a parent may be sued by a person injured by a child. In addition, many cities and counties have enacted ordinances, or local laws, that make a parent guilty of an offense, such as "failing to supervise a minor," if a child breaks the law. Since the laws vary so much, and since the legal and financial consequences may be severe, you need an experienced juvenile attorney to advise you regarding your rights and responsibilities.
How the Rhode Island Juvenile Justice System Works
The Rhode Island Juvenile Court system works differently from the adult court. A child may enter the juvenile court system after being arrested, or, in some cases, after a referral by school personnel, probation officers, crime victims, or even parents. A skilled and knowledgeable Rhode Island Family Court Defense Lawyer knows their way around the Rhode Island Juvenile Court system and can navigate through the complex procedures to ensure the fairest possible conclusion.
Trial as an Adult
There often is a possibility that a Rhode Island juvenile will be tried as an adult, in adult criminal court, rather than in juvenile court. The protections of a juvenile court proceeding do not exist in adult court: Court proceedings and records are not confidential, but are open to the public, and the court may impose the same sentence on the juvenile (jail time, fines, probation) that would be imposed on an adult. The full implications of trial as an adult can be more fully explained by an attorney knowledgeable in Rhode Island Juvenile Defense Law.
Adult Matters - An Overview
Criminal law is the body of law that relates to so-called "public wrongs." Criminal law does not concern itself with disputes between individuals, but relates to offenses against the public order. The federal government, along with cities and states, define and prosecute people who commit crimes that range from minor traffic violations, to serious, violent offenses, like rape or murder. People who are charged with a crime are called defendants, and they are represented by criminal defense attorneys. The governmental body that pursues the charges against the defendant is represented by a lawyer called a prosecutor. If you find yourself charged with a crime, you need the legal counsel of an experienced criminal defense attorney, to protect your rights now, and in the future.
The United States Constitution prohibits taking a person's life, liberty, or property without the due process of law. In order to meet this standard, a criminal statute must clearly set out the conduct that will be considered criminal. The statute must be more than a vague description that leaves a person without notice of exactly what conduct is prohibited. A criminal statute must set out the state of mind of a guilty person, called the mens rea, as well as the unlawful action, or actus reus. If you accidentally step on someone's toes when you enter a crowded elevator, that is not a crime because there was no guilty mind. Fantasizing about stomping on your boss's toes is not a crime because there is no guilty act. Crimes of attempt, like attempted murder, are not an exception to this rule. Attempt crimes require doing something toward the commission of the crime. A criminal defense attorney will be able to explain these terms to you, and to take away some of the mystery of an unfamiliar situation.
The Rhode Island Defense Process
Every lawyer involved in the criminal justice system must adhere to a complex set of rules of procedure to ensure a fair trial. The rules apply to both prosecutors and defense attorneys. This complicated procedure means that the criminal justice system is best dealt with by an experienced criminal defense attorney. A defense attorney should get involved in a case at the earliest stages, even before interrogation, if possible. The arresting officers have the obligation to inform the person in custody that he or she has the right to an attorney, and the right to have an attorney appointed if he or she does not have the resources to pay for an attorney. Most of us are familiar with these warnings-called "Miranda" warnings, after the name of the U.S. Supreme Court case that first required the warnings-from crime dramas and television shows.
Crimes committed by children are handled by a separate criminal justice system, known as the juvenile justice system (explained above). Juvenile courts typically have less formal procedures, and a less formal manner of adjudicating cases. While many defense lawyers handle both juvenile and adult cases, some focus their practices on only one type of representation.
Negotiating a Plea Agreement
Some criminal charges are dropped after a defendant's defense attorney negotiates with the prosecutor. In some cases, the defendant pleads guilty to a less serious charge in exchange for the prosecutor's agreement to drop the more serious charges. The final decision on whether to accept a proposed plea agreement always rests with the defendant.
Depending upon the severity of the crime committed, a defendant who is found guilty may be sentenced to serve some period of probation, to pay a fine, perform community service, make restitution or pay for the monetary losses caused by the crime, or to serve some time in prison. In some states, the most severe crimes are punishable by death. A veteran criminal defense attorney will know how to work with a prosecutor to fashion a deal that provides for the least severe punishment possible. If no deal can be made, the attorney can mount an aggressive defense in court, to convince the jury that the prosecutor cannot prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant committed the crime.
When you are accused of a crime, you find yourself in a frightening and stressful situation. No matter how minor the charge may seem, you should be represented by knowledgeable, competent counsel, who can work through the criminal justice system, give you zealous representation, and minimize the impact of the proceedings on your life. If you have been accused of a crime, or if you know someone who has been accused of a crime, do not delay in contacting an experienced criminal defense
Rhode island Misdemeanor Criminal Defense
rimes that are regarded as less serious are referred to as misdemeanors. A misdemeanor usually is punishable by a fine, or by incarceration in a local jail for a period of less than one year. Prosecutors typically do not convene a grand jury to investigate or issue indictments for misdemeanor charges, although the same conduct may give rise to both felony and misdemeanor charges. Misdemeanors are usually charged by a written complaint, or "information." In some states, poor defendants are not entitled to a court-appointed attorney when charged only with a misdemeanor. The charges may be considered minor, but being accused of a misdemeanor-not to mention being convicted of one-can cause a major disruption in the life of an accused. As in any criminal case, it is essential that a defendant in a misdemeanor prosecution have zealous representation backing him or her up. A person accused of a misdemeanor should seek the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney.
Misdemeanors sometimes are handled in special courts that have streamlined procedures. For example, in some states, a defendant who wants a jury trial in a misdemeanor case will have to make a special request, and a fee. An experienced criminal defense attorney will be able to advise you on the procedures followed in your particular jurisdiction.
As a rule, the penalties and other consequences of a misdemeanor conviction are less severe than those of a felony conviction. Not only do the jail sentences imposed tend to be shorter, but the broader consequences are not as dramatic. Usually, a person who has a misdemeanor conviction on his or her record may still vote, serve on a jury, and practice his or her profession. Defense counsel may, in some cases, be able to "plead down" a felony to a misdemeanor, which will not only minimize the punishment imposed, but will lessen the consequences for the future.
Crimes May be Either Misdemeanors or Felonies
Depending upon the circumstances of the case, some crimes may be considered either felonies or misdemeanors. Serious felonies, for example, assault or sexual abuse, often refer to conduct that could be a misdemeanor. If an assault causes severe bodily injury, for example, it is often regarded as a felony. Simple assault that causes no lasting injury, however, is a misdemeanor. Similarly, while drug offenses usually are felonies, possession of a small amount of marijuana is a misdemeanor in many states.
Less serious offenses, such as traffic violations, are often prosecuted as misdemeanors, even though they may be felonies in some circumstances, or the most minor type of crime, infractions, in others. A traffic violation usually is an infraction if there was no collision, no one was hurt, and no property was damaged. The violation becomes a misdemeanor or a felony if someone is injured, or there was destruction of property.
Misdemeanors may not carry the same threat of severe punishment and life-long consequences as felonies, but a misdemeanor conviction can nonetheless be costly, in both financial and personal terms. If you, or someone you know, are facing misdemeanor charges, you need to contact an experienced criminal defense attorneys without delay.
Rhode Island Felony Defense
The most serious types of crimes are referred to as felonies. The usual definition is that a felony is any crime that may be punished by more than a year's imprisonment, or death. A crime that has a maximum sentence of a monetary fine, or a short period of confinement in the local jail is not a felony. A statute may not specifically label an offense as a felony, but the punishment defines the offense as a felony. State criminal codes may call a crime an "aggravated" or "gross" misdemeanor, but the offense calls for a sentence of more than one year in the state penal system. Those offenses will be treated as felonies. When crimes charged are more serious, the need for an experienced criminal defense attorney to help a defendant through the process becomes even greater.
Felonies include both violent and non-violent crimes, such as grand theft, embezzlement of large sums of money, first degree assault, or assault that causes severe bodily harm, all degrees of murder, rape, racketeering, large scale fraud, kidnapping, and serious drug crimes.
Rhode Island Felony Procedures
Additional, special procedures apply when the charge is a felony. If a defendant is too poor to afford to hire an attorney, the court will appoint one to represent him or her, without charge. An attorney is not always appointed for less serious charges. Similarly, the defendant must usually be present for all or most parts of the court process when the charge is a felony. Some state laws require that felonies be charged only upon an indictment handed down by a grand jury, while lesser offenses may be charged by a written "complaint," or "information." The rules of evidence in some states provide that a defendant's or witness's testimony may be disregarded if he or she has been guilty of a felony, but the rule does not apply if he or she was guilty of only a less serious offense. Most importantly, some states have so-called "three strikes" laws, which provide that a person will be sentenced to life in prison on his or her third felony conviction. Three strikes laws do not apply to misdemeanor convictions. It is easy to see why a person charged with a felony needs the zealous representation of an experienced criminal defender.
Substantive Law of Felonies
Designating a crime as a felony may affect other charges, as well as the procedural law. For example, if an accidental death occurs during the commission of a felony, some states classify the crime as murder, while the crime is manslaughter if the death occurs during the commission of a lesser offense. Similarly, the common law defines the crime of burglary as entering another person's house without their permission, for the purpose of committing a felony in the house. If the purpose for entering was not the commission of a felony, the crime was not burglary. A conspiracy often will be punished more severely if the conspiracy was to commit a felony, instead of conspiracy to commit a misdemeanor.
Consequences of Felony Convictions
If a person is convicted of a felony, he or she may find that his or her rights may be restricted more than those of a person convicted of a misdemeanor. Convicted felons usually serve more time incarcerated, and the conditions of their incarceration generally are more severe. There are many other consequences, as well. In many states, people convicted of felonies may not serve on juries. They may lose their right to vote, or to engage in some professions, like teaching or law. Felons are often prohibited from serving in the military, or owning firearms. In addition, as noted above, many states have so-called "three strikes" laws that require that a person be sentenced to life upon his or her third felony conviction. Experienced defense counsel, will help you not only before and during a trial, but can make sure you may be able to return to a normal life as soon as you can.
The consequences of a felony conviction are severe, and can last for a long time. The punishment is severe, and there are other implications of the conviction that can stay in a person's life for many years to come. You need to protect your future. If you are facing felony criminal charges, contact an experienced, knowledgeable criminal defense attorneys without delay.
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