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Domestic violence offenses are those that take place between relatives, individuals who have been in a relationship within the past year, individuals who share a child together, or cohabitants of at least three years. In Rhode Island, if a police officer responds to a call for domestic violence, and has probable cause to believe that crime has been committed, the officer is required by law to make an arrest. If you have been arrested, call our Rhode Island domestic violence lawyer.
As a former prosecutor, our lawyer Noah J. Kilroy has litigated countless domestic violence cases. Noah J. Kilroy now uses that experience to mount an aggressive defense on your behalf. Because evidence can go stale and witnesses tend to change their mind or forget critical facts that may exonerate you, it is critical that you contact our office immediately if you have been charged with domestic violence. You need the trusted Rhode Island domestic violence attorney at Kilroy Law Firm on your case.
Unfortunately, domestic violence happens all too often in our society. Domestic violence affects women, men, and children; the aftermath may be devastating to everyone involved. Domestic violence disputes involving professional athletes, celebrities, and other public figures seem to appear in the national media on a weekly basis.
Unfortunately, not all domestic violence accusations are true, and many innocent defendants are left to deal with the consequences. While we should always take domestic violence matters seriously, the sad reality is that many claims of this type of violence are unfounded and without merit. In many circumstances, an individual alleging domestic violence does so for reasons other than abuse. For example, some individuals falsely allege domestic violence in a misguided effort to gain leverage in divorce and/or child custody matters. Revenge is also another motivation for false accusations. These false claims result in extreme injustice to innocent defendants, as well as those individuals who truly suffer from domestic violence. Specifically, when an individual files a false or inaccurate domestic violence claim, the accused may suffer negative, life-altering consequences with respect to the custody of his or her children, termination of employment and volunteer work, the possibility of jail time, and a severe financial burden. Get a knowledgeable Rhode Island domestic violence lawyer to help you answer all your questions.
Understanding Domestic Violence
In Rhode Island and Massachusetts, domestic violence offenses are those that take place between relatives, individuals who have been in a relationship within the past year, individuals who share a child together, and/or those who have lived together for at least three years. If a police officer responds to a call for domestic violence, and he or she has probable cause to believe that a crime has been committed, the officer is required by law to make an arrest. In other words, if an officer has probable cause to believe that the accused committed felony assault, physical threat of harm, or a violation of an existing protective order, an arrest will take place.
What If the Victim Does Not Press Charges?
Currently, the protocol of most Massachusetts and Rhode Island police departments dictates that an officer must arrest the accused even if the victim recants his or her allegations at the scene of the incident. This is true even if no other evidence exists to support the allegation of domestic violence. This “better safe than sorry” approach is understandable, of course. However, the practice allows for may arrest to take place based on very little or no evidence of a crime.
How Domestic Violence will Classify
If you face a domestic violence charge, the punishment you receive if convicted depends on the specific facts of your case. Certain domestic assault and battery charges are misdemeanors; a convicted defendant faces up to several months of prison time and significant fines. Even if a defendant receives probation rather than a prison sentence, it is not cheap. The court will often require the convicted individual to complete certified domestic violence and anger management programs, some of which may cost more than $3,500.
In other cases, charges may amount to aggravated domestic violence, which is a felony offense. In these situations, the penalties may include several years in prison. Prosecutors bring aggravated domestic violence charges when the accused seriously injured the victim, the victim is pregnant, or the victim is over 65 years old. Also, if an outstanding no-contact order was in place during the time of the alleged violence, prosecutors will seek aggravated charges. If a dangerous weapon is involved, the penalties are even more substantial.
Domestic Violence and Restraining Orders
In addition to carrying potential criminal penalties, domestic violence allegations can result in a civil restraining order being placed against you. These orders prohibit you from having contact with the alleged victim and can have a significant impact on your life.
Rhode Island refers to these orders as “restraining orders.” These orders may have the following legal effects:
- Prohibits physical contact and contact via phone, letter or electronic communication, or through a third party
- Can order support payments; valid for up to 90 days
- Can award temporary custody and visitation
- Can order the defendant to move out of a shared residence
The temporary order is valid for up to 21 days. If the permanent order is granted, it is effective for up to three years. It can be extended near the time of the expiration of three years.
Violating a family or district court restraining order is considered a criminal offense and can be punished by up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $1,000.
209A Protective Orders
Massachusetts uses a 209A protective order to protect victims of domestic violence. These orders are made in civil cases. However, violation of them can result in criminal charges. The initial order can last up to a year, but after that, it can be extended to be a permanent order in some situations.
209A protective orders can impact defendants in a number of key ways. The defendant may be ordered to:
- Not have any contact with the victim
- Move out of a shared residence and stay away from the home
- Pay temporary child or spousal support
- Have visitation with any shared children with the alleged victim and award temporary custody to the alleged victim
- Pay for any damages caused by the abuse like medical expenses or lost wages
- Turn over any firearms in their possession
- Attend a batterer intervention program
Can a Domestic Violence Conviction Results in Severe Penalties?
As discussed, a mere allegation of or an arrest for domestic violence can have very serious consequences. If you were arrested for domestic violence, it is best to consult with an experienced Rhode Island domestic assault attorney like our reputable criminal defense legal team specializing in domestic violence defense as soon as possible. Speak with our proven Rhode Island domestic assault lawyer today.
Statute of Limitations for Domestic Violence Charges
In Rhode Island, domestic violence is not a stand-alone crime. In other words, every domestic violence charge is related to an underlying charge. For example, if police are called to your home because your spouse reported that you hit her, the police will likely arrest you for assault. Then, because that assault was against a family member, the prosecutor will likely add a domestic violence charge to the underlying assault charge.
A statute of limitations exists for many civil and criminal legal matters. These laws limit how long a person has to sue someone and how long the State has to file charges against you. The length of the statute of limitations depends on the nature of the claim. For instance, in our state, you have three years to file a personal injury claim, subject to some specific exceptions.
If you are subject to criminal charges for domestic violence, the applicable statute of limitations depends upon the underlying charge. The statute of limitations for most misdemeanor and felony crimes in Rhode Island is three years. For example, if the State charges you with misdemeanor domestic violence assault, it has three years to bring charges. However, since homicide has no limitation period, if you get charged with a homicide that has a domestic violence enhancement, there is no limit to the amount of time the State has to file charges.
Defenses against Domestic Violence Charges
Some of the most commonly used defenses against domestic violence charges include:
- Self-defense: Self-defense is one of the most common defenses against domestic violence charges. Suppose, for example, that the complainant attacked you, you used force to defend yourself, and the complainant subsequently called the police and accused you of domestic violence. The “loser” of such an altercation may enjoy the initial advantage of sympathy even if they started the altercation, but that initial advantage can be overcome.
- Defense of others: Suppose you were forced to use violence against your spouse in order to prevent him or her from physically abusing one of your children (or to stop ongoing abuse before it got any worse). You are certainly entitled to intervene to protect another person, whether or not your child, from being violently assaulted.
- False accusation: Perhaps the account of the incident is wholly fabricated. You might be surprised at how many domestic violence accusations are concocted for the purpose of revenge or to gain an advantage in child custody proceedings, for example.
- Some or all of the evidence against you should be suppressed (eliminated from consideration). Evidence against you can be suppressed for many reasons, such as a confession that was uttered before the police advised you of your right to remain silent. Once the evidence is suppressed, the prosecution might be left with too little evidence to convict you.
- A direct contradiction of the evidence against you: Suppose your spouse accuses you of domestic violence and calls your neighbor as a witness. Your neighbor then testifies that she heard your spouse screaming “Stop! Please Stop!” at the time of the alleged incident. You might then call a witness who testifies that you were on the other side of the country on a business trip at the time.
Many other possible defenses are available, depending on the specifics of your case.
Client is arrested in the Newport Heights housing complex in Newport, Rhode Island and charged with Domestic Disorderly Conduct. If convicted, client could face up to six months in jail; have to take domestic violence classes (at client’s expense); have a no-contact order imposed; and have to pay up to $500 in fines.
After his arrest, client hires domestic disorderly conduct lawyer Noah Kilroy. After investigating client’s case, Attorney Kilroy realizes that the complaining witness was reluctant to testify. Attorney Kilroy then passed the case for trial to force the City of Newport to prove its case against client. On the day of trial, the complaining witness did not appear, and all charges against client were dropped.
Contact Our Rhode Island Domestic Violence Attorney Today
As a former prosecutor, our Rhode Island domestic violence lawyer Noah J. Kilroy litigated countless domestic violence cases. Noah J. Kilroy now uses that experience to mount aggressive defense strategies on behalf of his clients in a number of jurisdictions.
- Gun charges defense
- Sexual crimes
- Parole representation and post-conviction relief
- Prison consultation services
- White-collar crimes
- Drug charges
- Theft charges
- Assault and battery charges
Because evidence can go stale, and because witnesses tend to change their minds or forget critical facts that may exonerate the accused, it is critical that you contact our office immediately if you have been charged with domestic violence. You need our Rhode Island domestic violence attorney on your case. Contact Us, or call us, to take advantage of our free consultation and Best-Price Guarantee.