Criminal charges and criminal prosecutions in Rhode Island are often inextricably intertwined with child custody, paternity, visitation, property rights, restraining orders, divorce and family law issues, either directly or indirectly. There could be multiple proceedings pending in Rhode Island Courts, simultaneously. For example, there could be the following cases pending at the same time:
- criminal prosecution involving a no contact order,
- Providence Family Court complaint protection from abuse
- a child custody battle or a divorce in RI
Divorce and Criminal law in RI
If the parties are not married, in addition to the criminal proceedings, there could be a miscellaneous petition for custody and visitation. There also may be a DCYF (abuse, neglect or dependency) proceeding pending. There also could be a RI child support case, paternity proceeding or even a RI Family Court juvenile proceeding. If you were arrested and charged with a criminal charge in RI then you should contact a Rhode Island criminal defense lawyer. If you need legal help with a divorce in RI, then contact Rhode Island divorce lawyer, David Slepkow 401-437-1100.
What is a “domestic” criminal offense in Rhode Island?
This article applies to misdemeanor criminal charges in Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. A misdemeanor in RI is a “domestic” offense if it involves designated family members, a spouse, girlfriend or boyfriend. The following offenses can be considered domestic offenses under the laws of the Ocean State:
- failure to relinquish telephone
- harassing phone calls
- disorderly conduct
- other criminal charges
If the police assert that there is domestic angle to an assault, the prosecution will be for a “domestic assault” rather than just an “assault.” If an accused is arrested and charged with a domestic offense, a no contact order will issue in favor of the alleged victim or victims. If there is a no Contact order, it will be a crime for the criminal accused to have any contact with the alleged victim. The issuance of no contact order may wreak havoc upon the family, especially when the alleged accused and the victim are married or have a child together. If the victim and the criminal defendant are residing together then the local police may throw the accused out of his or her residence / home. This quasi eviction creates an entirely new set of challenges for the affected family unit. In some instances, the accused perpetrator is the sole provider of support for the family and the children.
Visitation and custodial issue | no contact order
If there are minor children involved then visitation and custodial issues may arise, immediately. The father or mother who was accused of a criminal offense may desire visitation and parenting time with his or her child. The alleged victim may or may not want the alleged criminal to visit with the children. The defendant may need his personal belongings such as clothes, jacket, personal papers, bills, toiletries, tools, computer, work clothes etc. In some cases the victim obtains a restraining order from the Providence Family Court or the 6th Division District Court. The victim may also demand child support. Often the criminal defendant has difficulty affording child support after retaining a Rhode Island criminal lawyer.
Should I get a top Rhode Island Criminal defense lawyer or Divorce lawyer to represent me in a criminal law or divorce case in Rhode Island?
A Rhode Island attorney is definitely needed for serious matters such as divorce, child custody and criminal causes of actions. The old adage that is often bandied around is that a person who is their own lawyer has a fool for a client. Rhode Island divorce attorneys and RI criminal defense lawyers are intimately familiar with the court process, RI laws, the judges and magistrates. Lawyers are familiar with the inner workings of our system of justice. If you are facing criminal charges in Rhode Island and Providence plantations, you may have a right to a free RI criminal defense attorney from the Public Defender’s office, if you meet income and eligibility guidelines.
Any crime that the authorities charge as a domestic crime is more serious than the same alleged offense charged as non-domestic. If someone is found guilty of a domestic criminal offense in RI or takes a nolo contendere plea deal with the prosecution is required to endure batterers intervention classes. This specifically includes sentences of probation, suspended sentence, one year filings and suspended sentences. Refusal to go to batterers classes as ordered or failure to pay Court ordered restitution could be considered a violation of probation, or a a violation of the terms of a one year filing.
In some cases, when there are quantifiable damages to the victim, such as damaged or destroyed property then the defendant may be ordered to compensate the victim by paying restitution. In some cases, the defendant is ordered to engage in substance abuse or mental health treatment. If a defendant is arrested, then a no contact order will enter unless the purported victim drops the nco. Unless the matter is dismissed, the victim drops the nco or the accused is found not guilty after a judge or jury trial, the no contact order will continue until the probation or suspended sentence terminates.
Violation of bail or 2nd domestic conviction
A bail violation could mean 10 -13 days at the ACI. A 2nd conviction for a domestic criminal offense in RI could result in a minimum of ten days at the adult correctional institution! A 3rd criminal arrest in Rhode Island for a domestic criminal offense, may be charged as a felony in Providence Superior Court. NOT all plea agreements constitute a criminal conviction. In Rhode Island and Providence Plantation, any sentence with a suspended sentence, guilty finding, plea of guilty, fine or period of incarceration constitutes a criminal conviction. A nolo-contendere plea bargain sentence with a period of probation or a one year filing with court costs does not constitute a conviction in RI!
A criminal conviction characterized as a domestic offense will look more menacing then a non-domestic on the accused’s criminal record when seeking employment opportunities. A Justice of the 6th division district court will usually be harsher than sentences for non-domestic offense. Furthermore, a one year filing in the Ocean State which is a domestic offense is not eligible to be expunged at the end of the year filing. There is an additional 2 year waiting period to expunge a domestic filing in RI. One year filings in RI
No contact order
In RI, A “no contact order” is often termed an “NCO” and means that the person accused of a criminal charge may not have contact and / or communication with the victim or the person under the protection of the no contact order. This includes but is not limited to letters, Facebook posts, instant messages, tweets, emails, text messages or messages delivered through a 3rd party. This is an article about family and criminal law in Rhode Island, uuthored by RI divorce attorney David Slepkow.
RI criminal lawyer
If an accused defendant in Rhode Island is under a no contact order and inadvertently is in the presence of the victim in public place, he or she must get out of that place as soon as possible and not acknowledge the victim’s presence. The defendant may not even say “hi” or exchange any sort of pleasantries if they saunter by the purported victim by happenstance on the road, at the mall or anywhere.
A criminal defendant could be pinched under RI criminal law for violating an NCO when the alleged victim initiates the communication and texts, Facebook chats or calls the defendant on his cell phone. A defendant in a criminal cause of action could be arrested and criminally charged with violating an NCO even if invited by his wife to live in the home with the kids.
Dismissing the no contact order
Once the no contact order is issued, the local police department cannot drop a no contact order. Only a judge can drop a no contact order. The purported victim may try to dismiss the no contact order at the criminal arraignment at Providence 6th Division District Court. It is nearly impossible for a victim to drop a NCO at an arraignment. Before addressing the Providence District Court judge or magistrate at the arraignment hearing, the alleged crime victim must converse with the domestic violence (DV) counselor at Courthouse. Sadly, this is normally a perfunctory conversation because the judge, not the advocate, decides whether to quash the NCO.
The Justice of the Court could dismiss the NCO during the arraignment hearing. Most judges refuse to do so at the arraignment, but it could happen. If the allegation of domestic abuse is severe or there is an established history of domestic violence, then the justice may reject the victim’s pleas to vacate the NCO. The restraining order will not be dropped by the RI judge if the victim declares that she is afraid of the allege perpetrator. It is sometimes easier to get the nco dismissed at the “pretrial. ” The Justice of the Court will usually seek to ascertain whether the police department, the prosecutor or the city solicitor have any objections to the no contact order being terminated. Some judges in Rhode Island refuse to drop no contact orders under nearly any circumstances. The modern trend is judges making it very difficult for the victim to drop a no contact order. If the case is dismissed or the accused is found not guilty the NCO is terminated.
Can the victim of an alleged crime dismiss the nco subsequent to the arraignment hearing but prior to the pretrial?
In the event that the victim wants to drop the no contact order after the arraignment but before the pretrial the victim can go to the clerk and ask that the file be brought in front of the judge. After conferring with the domestic advocate, the judge will rule on whether the no contact order will be dropped.
Can the no contact order be dropped at the pretrial conference?
The person being protected by the no contact order will have another chance to quash the NCO at the criminal pretrial conference hearing. The pretrial conference in Rhode Island is typically scheduled a couple of weeks after the arraignment. At the pretrial conference, the victim can approach the judge and again to have the no contact order dropped
More information pertaining to: RI no contact order
Will the judge in the Sixth Division District Court or Kent County District Court determine visitation, child support, paternity or custodial issues?
No. The District Court will not get immersed or involved in any family, divorce or custodial related issues such child support in RI, spousal support, paternity, relocation, equitable division of marital property, visitation and marital expenses. The District Court Judge in the criminal case will not determine who is responsible for payment of the mortgage, taxes, insurance and credit cards. Those family law issues are the sole province of the Rhode Island Family Court, not the District court!
The Providence District Court, Sixth Division, is where misdemeanor charges are heard in Providence County and determined. The District Court may order restitution if a person is found guilty or takes a plea. Restitution is damages to the victim of criminal activity to compensate for actual loss such as property loss, medical bills (prescription and medical devices), missing or stolen money etc.
Obtaining personal property, clothes and belongings when there is an NCO.
There are numerous appropriate and legal manners for a criminal accused to obtain his personal belongings when there is an NCO. Personal belongings usually consist of personal property such as clothes, work related equipment, tools, personal papers, sneakers, uniforms and personal property. The criminal accused can notify the local police department and seek appropriate assistance. The local police officer or patrolman may escort the defendant to the home. Often the police will rush the person and only allow them to recapture limited property. In some cases the officer cops a serious negative attitude and enforces a very draconian time limit.
If the accused has a private RI criminal defense attorney or a RI divorce lawyer, he can contact the victims attorney who can contact the victim to make arrangements. This can have its pitfalls because the victim may be hostile or the victim may have no interest in negotiating. The accused can attempt to arrange to get his belongings through a third party. The accused must be careful not to violate the no contact order.
This is part 3 of 5 of a series of articles authored by Rhode Island divorce attorney and RI criminal lawyer concerning probation, bail violations and no contact orders.
When does a no contact order in Rhode Island (RI) expire?
A no contact order (NCO) in Rhode Island and Providence Plantations expires when a sentence of filing, probation, deferred or suspended has ended on its own terms. An NCO also ends if the criminal case is dismissed by the prosecution or the judge. The NCO also terminates if he criminal accused is found not guilty by a judge after a trial on the merits. The no contact order expires if the judge terminates the no contact order at the request of the victim. Be extremely careful, there could be another different abuse Restraining order from the Providence Family Court or a 6th Division District Court abuse civil restraining order!
What are the implication if a criminal defendant on probation, bail, filing or a suspended sentence violates an NCO or restraining Order?
A defendant subjected to bail or probationary period needs be extremely cautious not to violate the NCO. A NCO violation is a separate crime. It also constitutes, if it can be proven, a violation of probation, 1 year filing or a bail violation.
A person who violates their probation, bail or one year filing may be held at the ACI if he or she is arrested for violating a no-contact order, District Court abuse restraining order or RI family court abuse restraining order. For example, if a person is on probation or bail, a single phone call made by the defendant to a victim under the protection of a no contact order probably means a minimum of ten 10 days in jail at the ACI. A probationary period or filing period is a time of tremendous risk for a defendant. The Defendant must be careful to stay out of trouble!
Accused must be vigilant
A criminal accused subject to a nco or an Family Court abuse restraining order must be careful. A violation of a NCO or a Family Court abuse restraining order is a violation of probation! It is also a violation of bail.
A defendant with a stayed, suspended, or deferred sentence has the most exposure because that person is on probation. concerning violation of the terms and conditions of probation. If a criminal defendant violates his probation as a result of violating a no contact order or abuse restrianing order, a person with a suspended sentence could be ordered to serve the remainder of the suspended sentence at the adult correctional institution (ACI)
“Five state agencies accounted for about half of the adults under parole supervision on June 30, 2006: Departments of Corrections in California (125,067 adults on parole); Texas (101,175); and Illinois (33,354); and two independent agencies, New York (53,215) and Pennsylvania (24,956, excluding adults supervised by county parole offices). Half of parole supervising agencies had a role in releasing prisoners to parole, setting the conditions of supervision, or conducting revocation hearings. Up to 16% of at-risk parolees in some agencies were re-incarcerated for a failed drug test.” Bureau of Justice Statistics http://www.bjs.gov/index.cfm?ty=pbdetail&iid=1665
The victim who has a no contact order as a result of the criminal charges may also file a complaint protection from abuse in RI Family Court. The Providence Family Court’ jurisdiction includes issuing a protection from abuse RO for three years.(one year if there is a restraining order on behalf of a child, also)
The Kent County, Washington County, Newport County and Providence Family Court may issue restraining orders for litigants who are married, divorced, certain family members or people who have children in common as well as other jurisdiction set forth in the statute. If the parties do not have a child and have been in a dating relationship then the jurisdiction for the RO is at the RI District Court.
Violation of Family Court Complaint protection from Abuse restraining order is a crime in itself
Violation of an abuse complaint in Providence Family court or a District Court abuse RO may be a violation of probation, conditions of bail or conditions of a one year filing. There are two types of Rhode Island Family Court Restraining orders, (1) “Complaint Protection from Abuse” and (2) a civil restraining order.
Is Violating a Family Court civil restraining order, which is not an order protection from abuse, a crime?
No. A violation of a Newport, Washington, Kent or Providence County civil, domestic Family Court restraining order that is NOT a Complaint Protection from Abuse RO is not a crime. The police will not make an arrest if someone violates one of these RO unless the actions and conduct of such violation is a crime in itself. If a husband, wife or other domestic litigant violates this kind of RO, it may be is punishable by a contempt finding and contempt penalty.
Civil domestic Restraining orders are not as powerful nor effective as Complaint protection from abuse restraining orders. Civil domestics restraining orders are usually an order in a RI divorce, post divorce or miscellaneous custody or visitation cause of action.
In a complaint protection from abuse filed in RI Family Court may the justice issue orders concerning visitation, child custody and child support.
Yes. In a Complaint Protection from Abuse case, the RI Family Court can award temporary child support, visitation, and temporary custody of the children. The Court can also award visitation and in some instances may order supervised visitation. The Court can order that the Defendant vacate forthwith and remain out of the household. The Court can also order that a person take batterers classes or drug and alcohol counseling. The Court can order drug and alcohol testing. The Court can also order the Defendant to surrender possession of all firearms / guns to the Police department.
Is a violation of a Rhode Island District Court Restraining order a crime?
Yes. These types of cases are not criminal cases yet a violation of this RO is a crime in itself.
What is the RI District Court jurisdiction for Restraining orders?
If the RO in Rhode Island and Providence Plantations is sought against a current boyfriend or current gf or an ex-bf or ex-girlfriend who you had a substantive dating relationship within the prior year but you have no child or children with, then the RI District Court is the correct court for litigating the restraining order. If a litigant has child with a current or ex-boyfriend/ ex-girlfriend then the RO needs to be pursued in the RI Family Court system of justice. AN RO against a roommate that you currently reside with is a District Court matter.
“Under VAWA, the concept of Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) enforcement was given state to state reciprocity, meaning a valid order filed and served in Ohio was enforceable in Maine, and everywhere else nationally. Once the local cops arrived on scene and verified that the order was in force, they could lock up the suspect for crossing state lines to harass, intimidate, threaten, stalk, or hurt the victim. But just how effective are restraining orders in these highly-emotional, always-volatile situations, where a piece of official-looking paper is supposed to serve as a figurative bulletproof shield? Studies on the efficacy of TROs vary widely, with one suggesting they are effective in keeping victims safe about 85 percent of the time, while another report suggests a less optimistic 15 percent success rate. So let us split the difference and say that restraining orders work about half the time and the other half, they don’t. Why or why not?” Do Domestic Violence Restraining Orders Ever Really Work?Renewing the violence against women act Posted Jul 27, 2012 https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-act-violence/201207/do-domestic-violence-restraining-orders-ever-really-work
This is part 5 of 5 of an extensive series of law articles related to restraining order law, authored by Rhode Island family court attorney and RI misdemeanor criminal law lawyer, David Slepkow. If you are considering a RI Restraining order, then you should carefully review these 5 articles.
What is the difference between a RI restraining order (RO) and a no contact order?
A no Contact order in Rhode Island and Providence Plantations is a decree issued as a result of a criminal charge and an arrest. A nco issues after an arrest at an arraignment either at the police station or at District or Superior Court. If an accused does not follow a No contact order and violates it, then he or she may be charged with a separate and distinct charge of violating an NCO. As was discussed in this extensive series of criminal law posts, a violation of an NCO may also be a violation of bail or probation subjecting an accused to being held at the ACI pending a hearing on the merits.
An NCO ends when the RI criminal case terminates (dismissal or not guilty finding). An NCO also terminates at the end of probation, one-year filing, deferred sentence, stayed sentence or suspended sentence.
A RO issued by the Family court, Civil District Court RO or a Superior Court RO stays in effect until the date designated on the restraining order. Interestingly, a Superior Court restraining order may continue indefinitely. A RO will be valid even if the NCO is vacated because the accused criminal defendant was found not guilty by a judge or jury or the criminal charges were dismissed by the judge or local prosecutor.
Superior Court in RI Restraining order:
If you are seeking a restraining order against a friend, co-worker, prior roommate, tenant, business associate, harassing neighbor, landlord or any other person, not covered by district of family court jurisdiction, then the RO needs to be pursued and litigated in Rhode Island Superior Court. Violation of a Providence Superior Court or RI Superior Court RO is not a crime in itself. If someone violates a Providence Superior Court RO, a Judge of the Court may punish through a contempt finding as well as contempt sanctions which could in fact lead to a period of incarceration.
If there is a no contact order protecting me should I also obtain a restraining order?
You should consult with a Rhode Island lawyer concerning this issue. If you feel you need protection in case the nco ends and are still in fear of the person then you may consider seeking a restraining order in addition to the no contact order. If there are crucial and important unresolved issues concerning RI child support, custody and visitation rights then you may also want to bring the matter to Providence family Court. If you need to seek a RI Restraining order in favor of your child, then you may need to file in RI Family court.
If the other parent is hindering or preventing visitation or communication with your child as a result of a no contact order or RO then you may need to file for divorce in RI. You may also need to pursue a separate action called a miscellaneous petition for custody, support or visitation rights in Providence Family Court. The Newport Family Court or Kent County Family Court can determine visitation and child support as part of a Complaint protection from abuse RO. (The Court can only set child support for 90 days in an abuse complaint)
In certain cases when domestic abuse is alleged, there may also be issues concerning alcohol, drug abuse or mental health issues. The Providence Family Court may order supervised visitations. These Supervised visitations may occur at the Providence Family Court or may be supervised by a third party.
Can the defendant testify in The Complaint protection from abuse hearing when he or she has a pending criminal charge?
This is an important determination for the defendant. The defendant must consult with his / her attorney and weigh the pros and cons of testifying in the hearing. A defendant in a criminal case has the right to take the Fifth Amendment and not testify in the case. A defendant in a complaint protection from abuse case must be careful because any testimony in the abuse case can be used against the person in the criminal case. The defendant can seek to continue the abuse case until the criminal case is resolved.
e RI Family Court articles here