Domestic Violence Cases in Rhode Island


In Rhode Island, the prosecution of domestic violence cases are highly prevalent at both the District and Superior court levels. However, misdemeanor charges are generally resolved in District Court and felonies in Superior Court.

In District Court, the typical domestic offenses charged by police departments include domestic assault and/or battery, violation of a no contact order, vandalism, and disorderly conduct. Misdemeanor offenses in District Court are typically prosecuted by cities and towns through use of private solicitors.

A conviction for a crime of domestic violence in district court carries with it six months of domestic violence classes as well as a period of probation and/or a filing. A sentence that includes any jail, whether to serve or suspended, will constitute a conviction for purposes of sentencing enhancements if that individual is charged again with crimes of domestic violence. A second offense for a domestic violence offense (excluding domestic disorderly conduct) carries with it a mandatory ten-day jail sentence. A third offense carries with it a mandatory one-year jail sentence.

Anyone facing crimes of domestic violence in District Court should retain counsel right away. These are not the types of offenses you want to handle on your own. My approach is to coordinate with the city or town prosecuting the matter as well as the complainant to reach a mutually agreed upon disposition that all parties can live with.


Many times, first offenders can complete private anger management classes and obtain a dismissal of their charges. If this disposition is not available, we look to amend the charges from domestic to non-domestic to avoid the mandatory sanctions discussed above. If the facts are favorable, a trial before a District Court judge is pursued. In either event, the goal is to minimize the consequences and expunge these matters from a criminal history as quickly as possible.

In Superior Court, crimes of domestic violence that are typically charged by the Department of Attorney General include felony assault and third offense domestic offenses (assaults or/battery, violations of the no contact order or vandalism). Felony matters in Rhode Island typically take at least six or more months to resolve because they require the filing of criminal information by the Department of Attorney General.

Once again, it is imperative to get skilled counsel onboard right away to steer the case toward a favorable resolution. Contact Rhode Island Domestic Violence Defense Lawyer John E. MacDonald to set up your consultation immediately.