What constitutes “domestic violence”? Rhode Island has identified 15 crimes that, if committed by “one family or household member against another,” constitute as “domestic violence.” R.I.G.L. § 12-29-2.
Those crimes are:
Arson, pursuant to R.I.G.L. §§ 11-4-2 et seq.; and
Burglary and Unlawful Entry, pursuant to R.I.G.L. §§ 11-8-1 et seq.;
Child-snatching, pursuant to R.I.G.L. § 11-26-1.1;
Cyberstalking and/or cyberharassment, pursuant to R.I.G.L. § 11-52-4.2.
Disorderly conduct, pursuant to R.I.G.L. § 11-45-1;
Felony assault, pursuant to R.I.G.L. §§ 11-5-1, 11-5-2 and/or 11-5-4;
Homicide, pursuant to R.I.G.L. §§ 11-23-1 and/or 11-23-3;
Kidnapping, pursuant to R.I.G.L. § 11-26-1;
Refusal to relinquish or to damage or to obstruct a telephone, pursuant to R.I.G.L. § 11-35-14;
Sexual assault, pursuant to R.I.G.L. §§ 11-37-2 and/or 11-37-4;
Simple assault, pursuant to R.I.G.L. § 11-5-3;
Stalking, pursuant to R.I.G.L. §§ 11-59-1 et seq.;
Trespass, pursuant to R.I.G.L. § 11-44-26;
Vandalism, pursuant to R.I.G.L. § 11-44-1;
Violating a no contact order or protective order (if the defendant knew about the order and the consequences of violating it), pursuant to R.I.G.L. § 15-5-19 and/or § 12-29-4;
A “family or household member” means:
Any adult relative (either through blood or marriage);
Any adult living with the “victim”;
Any adult who lived with the “victim” within the last 3 years;
Anyone having a child in common with the “victim”;
Anyone who has been in a “substantive dating or engagement relationship within the past one year,” which will be determined by the court after considering: (a) the length of the relationship; (b) the type of relationship; and (c) the frequency of interaction between the two.
Examples of “domestic violence”:
Ex. Your 21-year old son lives with his girlfriend, and got into a verbal fight with her inside their apartment. Neighbors hear your son say “I’m gonna kill you for cheating on me!” and call the police.
Can your son be charged with a domestic violence crime? Yes
Even though he was in his own home and did not physically assault his girlfriend, your son could be charged with domestic disorderly conduct for intentionally engaging in fighting or threatening behavior. See R.I.G.L. § 11-45-1; State v. Russell, 890 A.2d 453 (R.I. 2006).
Ex. Your 19-year old daughter, who just last week broke up with her boyfriend of two years, decides that she can’t wait for her ex to give her back her Jay-Z CD, and uses her ex’s spare key to go into his apartment and take the CD back herself.
Can your daughter be charged with a domestic violence crime? Yes
Your daughter could be charged with domestic trespassing. See R.I.G.L. § 11-44-26.
Ex. Your brother and his wife are going through a messy divorce, and his wife gets a Family Court protective order against him. He tries to fight it without a lawyer, and it gets upheld. His wife his appointed temporary custody of their two kids. Three days later, your brother realizes he forgot to discuss visitation with the kids, and needs to find out if their youngest took his inhaler with him when they moved out. He calls his wife for the sole purpose of discussing their children.
Can your brother be charged with a domestic violence crime? Yes
Because your brother didn’t ask the Family Court judge to grant an exception in the protective order to discuss visitation or the well being of his children with his wife, your brother can be charged with domestic violation of a protective order. See R.I.G.L. § 12-29-4; State v. Lopes, 884 A.2d 397 (R.I. 2005).
What does it mean if a crime qualifies as “domestic violence”?
In addition to certain possible collateral consequences, anyone convicted of their first domestic violence misdemeanor is required to attend a batterer’s intervention program and pay a $125 court assessment. A second conviction will also require imprisonment of between 10-365 days. A third conviction is considered a felony and requires imprisonment of between 1-10 years. R.I.G.L. § 12-29-5.
A charge involving domestic violence will also usually involve implementation of a no-contact order, which may result in you being unable to live in your own home (if the “victim” lives with you).
Can a domestic violence crime be expunged?
If the conviction would otherwise be eligible for expungement, and the defendant received a “filing” as his or her sentence, the defendant has to wait 3 years from the date of filing (as opposed to the normal 1-year waiting period).
What if the defendant is not a U.S. citizen?
Certain domestic violence convictions (i.e., domestic assault or domestic disorderly conduct for violent, tumultuous behavior) may lead to deportation of that defendant, whereas others (i.e., domestic disorderly conduct for loud and unreasonable noise or domestic trespassing) would not.
It is very important to know how to handle a charge involving domestic violence, because it can have very significant and long-term effects on your life and the lives of your loved ones.
To contact Attorney Godin about a domestic violence matter in RI, please call The Law Office of Katherine Godin, Inc. at (401) 274-2423 or email her at email@example.com.