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Rhode Island Sexual Assault Defense Attorney John E. MacDonald has twenty plus years of experience helping clients who are facing criminal prosecution for sex crimes. Attorney John MacDonald is a former public defender from the Rhode Island Department of the Public Defender and has extensive trial experience with violent crime defense.
Just some of the results achieved by the attorneys at The Law Office of John E. MacDonald, Inc.:
“I can’t thank John MacDonald enough for guiding me through this difficult process. He was able to get me bail right away and then worked with myself and other witnesses to ensure that our side was properly presented before the grand jury.”
Allegations of sexual assault can be the most frightening charges an individual can face for many reasons. First, the punishment for sexual assault crimes in Rhode Island can be extreme. Punishment for some sex offenses can be as high as life imprisonment and it is not uncommon for convicted sex offenders to receive punishments in excess of twenty years. Not only can the sentences for sex crimes be significantly higher than most other criminal offenses, but conviction often requires a life time requirement of registration as a sex offender.
Sex Crimes Defense Attorney John E. MacDonald will vigorously fight for your rights. His extensive experience with these types of charges and history of success in high-level trial cases will give you the best chance for a successful outcome to your case. He handles cases in the following areas:
If you have been charged, arrested, or investigated for any of these crimes it is vital that you contact a Providence Rhode Island Sexual Assault Lawyer that will aggressively defend your rights and protect you as soon as possible.
More frightening, perhaps, is the fact that false and/or mistaken allegations are not unusual. Many studies have found that a significant number of allegations of sexual assault are intentionally false, motivated by personal animosity, or arise as a response to a mistaken identity. A 1996 a Department of Justice Report found that of approximately 10,000 sexual assault cases analyzed with DNA evidence over the previous seven years, 2,000 excluded the primary suspect, and another 2,000 were inconclusive. The report also notes that these findings mirror a National Institute of Justice survey of private laboratories, and suggests that there exists “some strong, underlying systemic problems that generate erroneous accusations and convictions.” Some law enforcement studies have found that as many as ½ of allegations of sexual assault are false.
In addition, when children are involved, false statements, mistake and manipulation by adults, coupled with the public’s understandable urge to protect the young and helpless, can often lead to situations where individuals are wrongly accused and, in many cases, wrongly convicted. These cases can often start with a switch in the “emotional” burden of proof forcing the suspect to prove his or her innocence. And while this is not the true legal burden required in court, it is often the reality that a defendant must face and prepare to counter at ever opportunity.
For the above reasons it is imperative that an individual suspected or charged with a sex offense contact a sexual assault attorney or child molestation defense lawyer immediately. Rhode Island Criminal Defense Lawyer John MacDonald advises, without exception, that an individual questioned by law enforcement regarding allegations of sexual abuse refuse any interviews until the suspect has had an opportunity to discuss the matter fully with an attorney and evaluate the real costs and benefits of cooperation. In no other type of criminal investigation do the extreme feelings of panic and fear, caused by the stigma of the allegations alone, coupled with false promises by law enforcement, cause such a high rate of false confessions. The bottom line is that anyone suspected of a sex crime must refrain from answering any questions by law enforcement until represented by an experienced attorney.
§ 11-37-2 First degree sexual assault. –
A person is guilty of first degree sexual assault if he or she engages in sexual penetration with another person, and if any of the following circumstances exist:
(1) The accused, not being the spouse, knows or has reason to know that the victim is mentally incapacitated, mentally disabled, or physically helpless.
(2) The accused uses force or coercion.
(3) The accused, through concealment or by the element of surprise, is able to overcome the victim.
(4) The accused engages in the medical treatment or examination of the victim for the purpose of sexual arousal, gratification, or stimulation.
§ 11-37-3 Penalty for first degree sexual assault. –
Every person who shall commit sexual assault in the first degree shall be imprisoned for a period not less than ten (10) years and may be imprisoned for life.
§ 11-37-4 Second degree sexual assault. –
A person is guilty of a second degree sexual assault if he or she engages in sexual contact with another person and if any of the following circumstances exist:
(1) The accused knows or has reason to know that the victim is mentally incapacitated, mentally disabled or physically helpless.
(2) The accused uses force or coercion.
(3) The accused engages in the medical treatment or examination of the victim for the purpose of sexual arousal, gratification or stimulation.
§ 11-37-5 Penalty for second degree sexual assault. –
Every person who shall commit sexual assault in the second degree shall be imprisoned for not less than three (3) years and not more than fifteen (15) years.
§ 11-37-6 Third degree sexual assault. –
A person is guilty of third degree sexual assault if he or she is over the age of eighteen (18) years and engaged in sexual penetration with another person over the age of fourteen (14) years and under the age of consent, sixteen (16) years of age.
§ 11-37-7 Penalty for third degree sexual assault. –
Every person who shall commit sexual assault in the third degree shall be imprisoned for not more than five (5) years.
§ 11-37-8 Penalty for assault with intent to commit first degree sexual assault. –
Every person who shall commit assault with intent to commit first degree sexual assault shall be imprisoned for not less than three (3) years or more than twenty (20) years.
§ 11-37-8.6 Special assessment – Payment for treatment or counseling. –
In addition to all other statutory costs and assessments, every person, adjudged guilty of the provisions of § 11-37-8.1 or 11-37-8.3, whether by trial, plea of guilty or plea of nolo contendere, shall pay a special assessment of one hundred dollars ($100). In addition to any other penalty provided by law, any person convicted under §§ 11-37-8.1 – 11-37-8.3 may be required, as part of the sentence imposed by the court, to pay the cost of any necessary medical, psychological, or psychiatric treatment of the child resulting from the act or acts for which the defendant is convicted.
§ 11-37-3.2 Necessity of complaint from victim. –
No person shall be charged under § 11-37-3.1 unless and until the police department investigating the incident obtains from the victim a signed complaint against the person alleging a violation of § 11-37-3.1.
§ 11-37-9 Joinder of offenses. –
Any person who shall be indicted for first, second, or third degree sexual assault and/or first or second degree child molestation sexual assault and/or § 11-37-8 may also be charged in the same indictment with either or all of the offenses described in §§ 11-37-2, 11-37-4, 11-37-6, 11-37-8, 11-37-8.1, and 11-37-8.3. If upon trial the jury shall acquit the person of any of the charges of sexual assault and shall find him or her guilty of any of the other offenses, judgment and sentence may be entered against him or her accordingly.
§ 11-37-10 Subsequent offenses. –
If a person is convicted of a second or subsequent offense under the provisions of §§ 11-37-2, 11-37-4, 11-37-8, 11-37-8.1, and 11-37-8.3, the sentence imposed under these sections for the second or subsequent offenses shall not be less than twice the minimum number of years of sentence for the most recent offense.
§ 11-37-1 Definitions. –
The following words and phrases, when used in this chapter, have the following meanings:
(1) “Accused” means a person accused of a sexual assault.
(2) “Force or coercion” means when the accused does any of the following:
(i) Uses or threatens to use a weapon, or any article used or fashioned in a manner to lead the victim to reasonably believe it to be a weapon.
(ii) Overcomes the victim through the application of physical force or physical violence.
(iii) Coerces the victim to submit by threatening to use force or violence on the victim and the victim reasonably believes that the accused has the present ability to execute these threats.
(iv) Coerces the victim to submit by threatening to at some time in the future murder, inflict serious bodily injury upon or kidnap the victim or any other person and the victim reasonably believes that the accused has the ability to execute this threat.
(3) “Intimate parts” means the genital or anal areas, groin, inner thigh, or buttock of any person or the breast of a female.
(4) “Mentally disabled” means a person who has a mental impairment which renders that person incapable of appraising the nature of the act.
(5) “Mentally incapacitated” means a person who is rendered temporarily incapable of appraising or controlling his or her conduct due to the influence of a narcotic, anesthetic, or other substance administered to that person without his or her consent, or who is mentally unable to communicate unwillingness to engage in the act.
(6) “Physically helpless” means a person who is unconscious, asleep, or for any other reason is physically unable to communicate unwillingness to an act.
(7) “Sexual contact” means the intentional touching of the victim’s or accused’s intimate parts, clothed or unclothed, if that intentional touching can be reasonably construed as intended by the accused to be for the purpose of sexual arousal, gratification, or assault.
(8) “Sexual penetration” means sexual intercourse, cunnilingus, fellatio, and anal intercourse, or any other intrusion, however slight, by any part of a person’s body or by any object into the genital or anal openings of another person’s body, or the victim’s own body upon the accused’s instruction, but emission of semen is not required.
(9) “Spouse” means a person married to the accused at the time of the alleged sexual assault, except that such persons shall not be considered the spouse if the couple are living apart and a decision for divorce has been granted, whether or not a final decree has been entered.
(10) “Victim” means the person alleging to have been subjected to sexual assault.
A person is guilty of first degree child molestation sexual assault if he or she engages in sexual penetration with a person fourteen (14) years of age or under.
§ 11-37-8.2 Penalty for first degree child molestation sexual assault. –
Every person who shall commit first degree child molestation sexual assault shall be imprisoned for a period of not less than twenty-five (25) years and may be imprisoned for life.
§ 11-37-8.2.1 Penalty for first degree child molestation sexual assault –
Jessica Lunsford Child Predator Act of 2006. –
(a) Title and Legislative Intent. The title of this section shall be “The Jessica Lunsford Child Predator Act of 2006”. In enacting this section the general assembly intends that in order to ensure the safety of victims the most dangerous child predators be electronically monitored via an active global positioning system in order to ensure that their whereabouts can be easily ascertained by law enforcement and other responsible authorities at all times while providing treatment to offenders.
(b) Every person who shall violate the provisions of subdivisions 11-37-8.2.1(b)(1) – 11-37-8.2.1(b)(2) listed herein shall be electronically monitored via an active global positioning system for life and, as a condition of parole and probation, and for the duration of any period of his or her probation following his or her parole shall attend a sex offender treatment program to address his or her criminally offensive behavior, as determined by the department of probation and parole. The persons subject to this condition of parole shall include:
(1) Persons who commit first degree child molestation sexual assault on or after January 1, 2007 and the victim of the sexual assault is twelve (12) years of age or younger; or
(2) Persons who shall violate the conditions of § 11-37-8.1 on or after January 1, 2007 and be determined a high-risk of re-offense (level 3) offender under the conditions of § 11-37.1-12, and the person is deemed a child predator as defined in subsection 11-37-8.2.1(g) or have committed the offense in conjunction with circumstances involving kidnapping, torture or aggravated battery, and provided further that the victim to the offense is fourteen (14) years of age or younger.
(3) Any person who violates the terms of the global position monitoring conditions shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.
(c) Any costs associated with the requirements of this section shall be borne by the offender and the court is hereby authorized and empowered to utilize all resources available to collect the funds for these costs unless the court finds that the defendant is indigent. In such cases costs shall be waived in order to promote this section’s legislative intent.
(1) Any person who has reason to know that a person convicted of first degree child molestation as defined by § 11-37-8.1 or 11-37-8.2.1 is not complying or has not complied with the requirements of this section where applicable and who with the intent to assist the child molester in eluding a law enforcement agency that is seeking to find the child molester to question the child molester about or to arrest the child molester for his or her non-compliance with the requirements of this section and who:
(i) knowingly withholds information from or willfully fails to notify the law enforcement agency about the child molester’s non-compliance with the requirements of this section; or
(ii) harbors or attempts to harbor or assists another person in harboring or attempting to harbor the child molester; or
(iii) knowingly conceals or attempts to conceal or assists another person in concealing or attempting to conceal the child molester; or
(iv) provides information to the law enforcement agency regarding the child molester that the person knows to be false information commits a felony and shall be subject to imprisonment for a period of five (5) years. Nothing in this subsection shall be construed as limiting the discretion of the judges to impose additional sanctions authorized in sentencing.
(2) Any person who permits a child predator as defined by this section to reside with them knowing that the child predator has failed to comply with the requirements of subsection 11-37-8.2.1(b) commits a felony punishable by up to five (5) years imprisonment and/or a five thousand dollar ($5,000) fine.
(e) Any person who intentionally tampers with damages or destroys any electronic monitoring equipment required by this section pursuant to a court order or parole board order unless such person is the owner of the equipment or an agent of the owner performing ordinary maintenance and repairs commits a felony and shall be imprisoned for not less than one nor more than five (5) years.
(f) The department of corrections, prior to the release from incarceration of any child predator, shall ensure that the child predator’s fingerprints are taken and forwarded to the bureau of criminal identification (BCI) division within the department of attorney general within forty-eight (48) hours after release from incarceration. The fingerprint card shall be clearly marked “Child Predator Registration Card”.
(g) For the purposes of this section “child predator” shall be defined as any person convicted of any violation of § 11-37-8.1, and who on a prior occasion has been convicted of a violation of § 11-37-8.1 or § 11-37-8.3.
§ 11-37-8.3 Second degree child molestation sexual assault. –
A person is guilty of a second degree child molestation sexual assault if he or she engages in sexual contact with another person fourteen (14) years of age or under.
§ 11-37-8.4 Penalty for second degree child molestation sexual assault. –
Every person who shall commit second degree child molestation sexual assault shall be imprisoned for not less than six (6) years nor more than thirty (30) years.
§ 11-37-8.8 Indecent solicitation of a child. –
(a) A person is guilty of indecent solicitation of a child if he or she knowingly solicits another person under eighteen (18) years of age or one whom he or she believes is a person under eighteen (18) years of age for the purpose of engaging in an act of prostitution or in any act in violation of chapter 9, 34, or 37 of this title.
(b) As used in this section, the word “solicit” or “solicitation” means to command, authorize, urge, incite, request, or advise another to perform an act by any means including, but not limited to, in person, over the phone, in writing, by computer, through the Internet, or by advertisement of any kind.
§ 11-37-8.9 Penalty for indecent solicitation of a child. –
Every person who shall commit indecent solicitation of a child shall be imprisoned for not less than five (5) years.
It may start with a mysterious knock at the door. Or perhaps a phone call from police requesting that you contact them right away. Whispers among the neighbors.
Anyone facing the daunting accusation of sexual assault cannot and should not go it alone. Here’s what to expect if you or a loved one is facing the most hideous of all accusations – sexual assault or child molestation.
First things first – Don’t Talk. The police have a job to do and protecting you or your rights is really not high on their list of priorities. That voice welcoming you to come to the station to give “your side of the story” or to “clear things up” is really after one thing: your confession to the crime which they have no doubt you committed.
You see, investigations go a lot quicker and smoother when the target of a sexual assault investigation – YOU – admits to the crime. Even if you don’t admit to it, you may give versions of events so contradictory that your future defenses are severely limited.
The Don’t Talk advice also applies to talking to others as well. Any statement you make to family, neighbors, or friends can also be used against you. You have the absolute right to keep quiet until you speak to counsel – your lawyer cannot be compelled to speak against you.
While there are some cases where a sit down with the police may be helpful, the problem is it’s rare and only a seasoned veteran can spot it. Don’t ever think that speaking to the police alone will help your case – it won’t.
If the police decide to arrest you, they can do it anywhere. Typically, though, they will do it where they know you have to bey, like your home or workplace.
Second, get a lawyer on your side quickly. Decisions as to how to proceed in your case have to be made fast. Decisions, such as collecting potentially helpful evidence, interviewing witnesses, or starting a dialogue with police or prosecutors, can have a major impact on your case and should be trusted to an experienced attorney. Time is of the essence during the early stages of a sexual assault accusation.
Finally, get ready for a long road. These cases may start quickly but they do not end quickly. The process in Rhode Island takes time – usually six months in the District Court followed by 6-18 months in Superior Court. During this time, getting released on reasonable bail conditions with the ability to work and travel i s critical.
First or Second degree sexual assault (child molestation) charges are generally charged by police by way of criminal complaint. This gets the case immediately before a District Court Judge for what is called an arraignment or initial appearance. The judge will decide your terms of bail and other conditions of release, such as a no contact order or ability to travel.
In First Degree cases, the police typically request that the defendant be held without bail for a bail hearing in 10 business days. That’s two weeks when weekends are included. At a bail hearing, there may be an agreement between the judge, prosecutor and your lawyer as to release you on bail or it may be a contested hearing with witness testimony.
If it is a contested hearing, the state must provide evidence, in the form of witness testimony, to prove that there is “proof evidence or presumption great” that a capital offense was committed. Your attorney will have the opportunity to cross examine any state witness. At the conclusion of the hearing, even if the state meets its burden, a judge must decide if you pose a danger to the community or risk of flight.
In a Second Degree case, bail must be set by the District Court judge along with the typical conditions of a no-contact order.
In Rhode Island, bail may be posted with cash or credit in the amount of 10% of the total bail. In other words, a $10,000 “with surety” bail may be posted with $1000. This money is returned at the conclusion of the case, less any court costs.
You may also post equity in property so long as you have the documents to prove you have $10,000 worth of equity and the Attorney General’s office agrees and signs on.
Finally, you may post bail with a bondsman. A bondsman will charge you 5% of the total bail (in the example above, $500 to post a $10,000 bail). The difference is, the bondsman keeps the money as his fee to post his property as surety.
After a case is brought to District Court by criminal complaint, the state has six months to indict you and formally charge you in Superior Court. An indictment is a formal charge made by a grand jury who has heard some of the evidence and concluded that probable cause exists to charge the case.
After an indictment is handed down by the grand jury, the case is scheduled for an arraignment in the Superior Court. At the arraignment, a Superior Court judge must decide your bail conditions going forward.
After the arraignment, the pre-trial process begins with mutual requests for discovery. Your attorney must formally request in writing copies of all evidence that the state used to indict you and all evidence it plans to use at trial to convict you.
The pre-trial process can take anywhere from six months to multiple years, depending upon the complexity of the case.
If a plea agreement is reached between your attorney, the prosecutor and the judge, you will appear before the court to formally change your plea from not guilty to nolo contendere. In Rhode Island, a nolo plea is essentially a plea of guilty since you are admitting to the facts forming the basis of the charges.
A trial in the Superior Court starts with pre-trial motions “in limine,” to limit the evidence each side expects to show the jury. This is followed by jury selection. During the jury selection process, each side has the ability to strike jurors that appear to be biased against their side.
Once a jury is selected and sworn in, each side has the opportunity to present opening arguments. An opening is a road map of the case, pointing out what evidence each side intends to present to prove their case.
After openings, the state presents their witnesses in the form of direct examination and defense counsel has the opportunity to cross examine them.
After the state finishes its case, defense counsel may move for a judgment of acquittal on the basis that the evidence fails to prove the charge(s). If denied, defense counsel may present its own witnesses or rest.
If defense witnesses are presented, the state may cross examine them and present rebuttal witnesses – or witnesses call to rebut or refute what the defense witnesses testified to.
After all evidence is presented, each side gets to present closing arguments to the jury, starting with defense counsel. Once closing arguments are completed, the judge will instruct the jury as to the applicable law and then select 12 jurors to deliberate. Any criminal ver dict must be unanimous.
If you or your loved one has been accused of sexual assault or child molestation, the two most important things that need to be done are:
Your or your loved one’s future hinges on your being calm and making the right decisions.
DISCLAIMER: This site and any information contained herein are intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Seek competent legal counsel for advice on any legal matter. Also, the Rhode Island Supreme Court licenses all lawyers in the general practice of law, but does not license or certify any lawyer as an expert or specialist in any field of practice.
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