RHODE ISLAND CRIMINAL DEFENSE A Practice Manual – Consecutive Sentences

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A Practice Manual, 4th Edition
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Consecutive Sentences

State v. Ballard, 699 A.2d 14 (R.I. 1997). R.I.S.C. struck down the trial judge’s imposition of consecutive life sentences followed by sixty-five years to serve.

“Although a sentencing justice’s decision concerning whether a defendant ought to be sentenced to serve concurrent or consecutive sentences is discretionary, contemporary thinking is that consecutive sentences are appropriate only in rare instances…Consecutive sentences for a single course of criminal activity presents special dangers in complying with the constitutional requirement that all punishment ought to be proportional to the offense.” Id. at 18.
But see State v. Coleman, 984 A.2d 650, 656 (R.I. 2009), “…we have declined to treat our holding in Ballard as a bright-line rule… We now hold that Ballard is of little or no precedential value. See also State v. Vieira, 883 A.2d 1146, 1150 n. 3 (R.I. 2005), reiterating that the holding in Ballard should be read narrowly as applying to the facts in that case.
State v. Guzman, 794 A.2d 474 (R.I. 2002). R.I.S.C. affirmed the trial judge’s imposition of consecutive life sentences, noting that Ballard does not require that sentences be concurrent.

When determining whether the sentences will run concurrently the trial judge may properly consider the aggravating circumstances of the crimes and the deterrent impact of the sentences.
State v. Rodriguez, 822 A.2d 894 (R.I. 2003). Because the Rhode Island General Assembly specifically authorized consecutive sentences for crimes of violence while using a gun, the imposition of cumulative punishment does not violate the double jeopardy clause of the Rhode Island Constitution.

State v. Monteiro, 924 A.2d 784 (R.I. 2007). Mandatory, consecutive life sentences for first-degree murder and using a firearm while committing a crime of violence resulting in death were appropriate sentences and did not constitute cruel and unusual punishment for seventeen-year-old offender who killed an innocent bystander during a gang-related gunfight.

State v. Coleman, 984 A.2d 650 (R.I. 2009). Trial court was justified in departing from sentencing benchmarks and in sentencing defendant to consecutive sentences totaling twenty-five years for breaking and entering, simple assault, and driving a motor vehicle without consent of the owner. The court based its decision on the defendant having lied at trial, his extensive criminal history, his disregard for the law and the rights of the victims, and because he was a poor candidate for rehabilitation. R.I.S.C. affirmed.

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