Rhode Island Domestic Violence Update

Posted by Michael Zarrella | Mar 05, 2015 | 0 Comments

     The Rhode Island General Assembly and the law enforcement community in Rhode Island is consistently working to increase the penalties for domestic violence convictions.  They have also worked to revise classifications of certain crimes from misdemeanors to felonies.  As a result, on individual charged with a domestic violence crime in Rhode Island must take the charge very seriously and hire an experienced domestic violence attorney who will work to have the charges reduced or dismissed to avoid conviction and the harsh penalties associated with a domestic violence conviction.
     In 2012, the Rhode Island General Assembly revised the domestic violence law by classifying the crime of strangulation as a felony.  Prior to this legislation, strangulation was treated as a misdemeanor simple assault with a penalty of up to 1 year in prison.  Under the new classification as a felony, a conviction of domestic violence strangulation could result in up to 10 years in prison.
     Strangulation within a domestic relationship is defined in the statute R.I.G.L. Section 11-5-2.3 as "knowingly and intentionally impeding normal breathing or circulation of the blood by applying pressure on the throat or neck or by blocking the nose or mouth of another person, with the intent to cause that person harm."  The individual accused of strangulation will be prosecuted for the crime of domestic violence strangulation if they are in a domestic relationship and as long as it can be proven that there was "intent to cause that person harm."  It does not need to be proven that the individual intended to kill the person.
     As with any newly enacted law, law enforcement is very aggressive in charging individuals under the new statute whether or not the crime can truly be classified as domestic strangulation as opposed to charging and individual with simple assault.  As a result, an individual could be facing up to 10 years in jail as a result of the felony charge as opposed to up to 1 year in jail for a misdemeanor assault.  Additionally, the charge of a felony applies to an individual without any prior convictions. Consequently, it is critical to have an experienced domestic violence attorney analyze the facts of your case to determine if law enforcement correctly charged the crime as domestic strangulation rather than a simple misdemeanor assault.  Any conviction under the domestic violence prevention act requires the implementation of a no contact order and domestic violence counseling.
      This new law has been criticized by many in the legal profession as being overly broad in it's scope and allowing for law enforcement to abuse its discretion by erroneously charging individuals with a domestic strangulation crime rather than a simple assault. An experienced domestic violence strangulation defense attorney is familiar with the facts needed to support a charge of strangulation and will defend an individual wrongly charged with strangulation and will seek to have the charge reduced.  This defense will make the difference in a person facing up to 1 year in jail or facing up to 10 years in jail with a felony conviction on their record.
      Furthermore, under the Domestic Violence Prevention Act each conviction for a domestic violence offense increases the punishment imposed by the Court.  For instance, a second misdemeanor domestic violence violation shall require imprisonment for a period of not less than 10 days and not more than 1 year.  A third and subsequent domestic violence violation is considered a felony and imprisonment of not less than one year and not more than 10 years will be imposed.  Consequently, each domestic violence charge must be defended by an experienced criminal defense attorney who must work toward a dismissal of the charge, reduction of the charge or a disposition that will not constitute a criminal conviction.  I have the experience to work for you to reduce your domestic violence charge or have it dismissed.
     I have been defending individuals charged with crimes such as domestic violence in Rhode Island in addition to all other crimes for over 20 years.  I have successfully and tirelessly worked to have charges reduced or dismissed. Don't take chances with your future and your freedom!  Hire an experienced domestic violence defense attorney to review your domestic violence case and begin to work on your defense.

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