If a person is arrested for a criminal misdemeanor in Rhode Island (RI) there are several potential scenarios. The police could hold the accused and bring him to Court for an arraignment in District Court in the morning. The police also could call a Bail Commissioner who could arraign the accused at the police station and release the person. The bail commissioner could also set bail in order for the person to be released.
It is usually not advisable for a person to give a statement to the police without a Rhode Island (RI) Criminal Lawyer / attorney. However, there are exceptions to every rule!
The accused who is arraigned by the justice of the peace must still attend a more formal arraignment in District Court after he / she is released from police custody.
The formal arraignment is the court hearing where a criminal defendant either pleads not guilty, or nolo contendere to the criminal charges. Nolo contendere means the person is admitting to the charges but is not contesting them. A defendant should never plead guilty. A nolo contendere plea is not a conviction unless there is a suspended sentence, fine or jail time. The scope of this article does not pertain to expungement law or a detailed explanation of the different pleas and sentences that can be imposed.
It is usually a very bad idea for a person to plea nolo contendere without an attorney at the arraignment. However, there are exceptions to this rule especially if the person will be held as a probation or bail violator. It is usually very strongly advisable that the defendant pleads not guilty and retains a Rhode Island criminal Lawyer. If the accused cannot afford a private criminal attorney he or she should go to the Rhode Island Public Defender’s office.
If the accused pleads nolo at the arraignment they will be sentenced to a filing, probation , suspended sentence or jail time. Usually, the accused will work out a plea agreement with the police officer prior to pleading nolo contendere.
At the arraignment in District Court, the person will typically be released on bail after the person pleads not guilty. An accused should hire a Rhode Island Criminal Attorney to represent him / her at an arraignment. For minor misdemeanor offenses, bail is usually personal recognizance which means the person does not have to come up with any actual funds.
A defendant released on personal recognizance, has to promise that they will attend court for future hearings and / or trial. Personal recognizance is designated as an amount of funds. The accused does not actually pay any money! However, If the person fails to attend court in the future, the accused will owe that amount of money to the State of Rhode Island.
If the Rhode Island (RI ) District Court judge orders cash bail then the accused must pay that amount in cash to be released. If it is cash bail than the defendant cannot post property.
If the person is repeat criminal offender, the allegations are particularly bad, the person has a history of not attending court or for other reasons, then the court could set bail with surety. This means that the person only has to pay 10 percent of that amount or post property valued at full amount. If a person cannot come up with ten percent then they can hire a bail bondsman who will post that amount for a fee. A Bail bondsman’s fee is usually reasonable. If the person attends all Court dates then the bail funds will be returned at the end of the case.
If the person arrested was out on bail for a previous offense, is on probation, is in the midst of a one year filing, suspended sentence or deferred sentence then the judge can hold the person as a”violator” pending a hearing. The judge can refuse to set bail and hold a person as a violator at the aci for ten business days which could be up to 14 days.
There will be a hearing 10 days later in which the person will be accused of violating probation or bail and also stand trial on the new charges. The scope of this article does not include an in depth analysis of bail / filing / probation violation hearings.
It is important that this criminal law article be used for informational purposes only and not as a substitute for seeking legal advice from a Rhode Island Criminal lawyer.
A misdemeanorin RI is any offense punishable by up to one year in Jail. Typical misdemeanors are: driving under the influence of alcohol / drunk driving (dui / dwi), shoplifting, domestic assault, Second (2nd) offense refusal to take the breathalyzer, driving on a suspended license, writing bad checks, domestic vandalism, simple assault and battery, domestic disorderly, reckless driving, disorderly conduct, etc. There are different rules that apply to driving with suspended licenses and this article does not fully address those provisions.
Legal Notice per RI Rules of Professional Responsibility:
The Rhode Island Supreme Court licenses all lawyers and attorneys in the general practice of law, but does not license or certify any lawyer/ attorney as an expert or specialist in any field of practice.