RHODE ISLAND CRIMINAL DEFENSE A Practice Manual – Sentencing and Appeal from District Court

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A Practice Manual, 4th Edition
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Sentencing and Appeal from District Court

State v. Avila, 415 A.2d 180 (R.I. 1980). Defendants appealed for a jury trial in Superior Court, under § 12-22-1, following their assault and battery convictions at a jury-waived trial in the District Court. The court granted the appeal but denied the request for a jury trial. R.I.S.C. reinstated the claim.

Defendants’ waiver of the right to jury trial at the District Court cannot affect the statutory rights of the defendant appealing to the Superior Court following conviction.
Defendants have a constitutional right to a jury trial for any “non-petty” offense (an offense carrying a maximum penalty of more than six months) and it was unconstitutional to deny that right on appeal for trial in the Superior Court.
The judge’s erroneous denial of a jury trial stemmed from his belief that he could not impose a sentence higher than the $100 fine defendants received from the District Court. However, “the Superior Court possesses the power to impose a sentence after trial de novo more severe than that imposed by the District Court,” and defendants offense had a maximum penalty of one year’s imprisonment. Id. at 182-83.
State v. Brown, 899 A.2d 517 (R.I. 2006). Jury found defendant guilty of disorderly conduct and the trial judge ordered the case filed for a period of one year; defendant appealed that order and R.I.S.C. dismissed the appeal.

Rhode Island law provides a right to appeal from a final judgment. Following a conviction in a criminal trial, the sentence is the final judgment. “Because the case was filed, pursuant to § 12-10-12, no sentence has been imposed and therefore no final judgment has entered.” Id.
Defendant may only appeal if she fails to maintain the conditions of her filing, is brought before the court, and receives a sentence under the original charge.
State v. McManus, 950 A.2d 1180 (R.I. 2008). Defendant appealed to the Superior Court from a District Court bench trial where he was convicted of disorderly conduct and acquitted of simple assault. The Superior Court judge dismissed the charges after determining that the District Court’s findings at trial were erroneous. R.I.S.C. vacated and remanded for trial.

Because the Superior Court trial justice was without authority to undertake appellate review of the District Court trial judge’s findings, her order must be vacated. When a District Court judgment is appealed under § 12-22-1, the state, as well as the accused, is entitled to a trial de novo.” Id. at 1182.

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