For most people, understanding the Rhode Island legal system is anything but easy. Laws seem to change every day as our society changes over time.
This isn’t a problem until you’re charged with a crime. Suddenly, you’re trying to learn every single term while attempting to stay calm. These aren’t ideal conditions for absorbing new information—especially considering how dense and dry legal terms can be.
At the Law Office of John E. MacDonald, Inc., we know how exhausting and terrifying this experience can be.
But you have every right to understand the charges against you, plus your options for protecting your freedom.
That’s why we put together this comprehensive article to answer a very common question: What is a capital felony in Rhode Island? Keep reading to learn the definition, potential penalties, and your next steps.
What is the Definition of a Felony?
In Rhode Island, a felony is any crime punishable by a fine greater than $1,000 and/or 1 year of imprisonment. Crimes with maximum penalties below these thresholds are considered misdemeanors.
The court treats felonies as a very serious crime. And it’s true that the prosecution’s goal is always proving the defendant’s guilt. The thing is, they’re especially dedicated when it comes to felony charges.
Is Felony a Capital Offense?
No, felony charges are not automatically classified as a capital offense. And non-capital felonies tend to come with lighter penalties. You may face up to 50 years in prison for a felony conviction. But you can receive a life sentence if convicted of a capital felony.
Some examples of non-capital felony crimes in RI include:
- Breaking and entering (also called B & E)
- Possession of a stolen motor vehicle
- Drug delivery or intent to do so
- Drug possession
The above offenses are still serious, to be clear. But they’re not as serious as capital felony charges.
So, What is a Capital Felony in Rhode Island?
A capital felony is the most severe type of criminal charge in RI because you may be sentenced to life in prison.
Here are some examples of capital felony offenses in Rhode Island:
- First-degree robbery
- First-degree sexual assault
- First-degree child molestation
All these charges carry the potential for a life sentence in prison if you’re convicted. Certain drug trafficking charges also fall into this category, but not all.
What are the Penalties for a Capital Felony?
Since Rhode Island law prohibits the death penalty, the maximum potential penalty for a capital felony is life in prison. The judge decides what your punishment will be if you’re convicted.
Every judge is required to consider many factors before deciding on the penalty. Things like your employment history, family background, immigration status, past education, and mental health history will guide the judge’s decision.
But the crime itself and your attitude affect your sentencing, too. Your past criminal history, remorse towards your victim, and whether you accept responsibility will all influence the judge.
So, the maximum penalty for a capital felony in Rhode Island is life in prison. But the final decision is up to the judge. Your sentence may also include fines.
Will You Go to Jail if Convicted of a Capital Felony?
Yes, you will most likely go to prison if you’re convicted of a capital felony in Rhode Island. But there is a very slight chance that you’ll avoid going to jail.
You see, RI law recognizes several alternatives to a prison sentence. Probation, treatment programs, and community service are the most common. And the judge isn’t required to issue a lifelong prison sentence.
But the vast majority of people with a capital felony conviction serve some amount of jail time. On average, this ranges from a few years to lifelong imprisonment.
Should You Hire an Attorney to Defend Your Case?
Yes, you should absolutely hire an experienced and successful Rhode Island criminal defense attorney if you’re facing charges of any kind.
This is especially true for any capital felony.
At the Law Office of John E. MacDonald, Inc, our team provides the expert and aggressive legal defense you need. With a proven track record of successfully defending cases in Rhode Island Superior Court for 25 years, John E. MacDonald’s skills are second to none.
And that’s exactly what you need when you’re facing the most severe type of criminal charge in the state. You don’t have to go through this harrowing experience alone—we’re open 24/7 to serve your needs.
Call us immediately at (401) 421-1440 to schedule your free consultation.
What Court Handles Capital Felonies?
Rhode Island Superior Court handles all felony charges in the state, and that includes capital felonies.
The state of RI consists of 4 counties. Each county has their own Superior Court:
- Newport County Superior Court
- Kent County Superior Court
- Providence County Superior Court
- Washington County Superior Court
Regardless of which handles your case, you’ll be charged through the indictment process.
Basically, the prosecution goes before a grand jury to present their evidence. The grand jury reviews and decides whether there’s probable cause for the charge. If they agree with the prosecution, they’ll return an indictment (a formal accusation).
What is the Max Jail Sentence if Convicted of a Capital Felony in Rhode Island?
The max jail sentence if you’re convicted of a capital felony in Rhode Island is lifelong imprisonment.
If you or a loved one is facing capital felony charges, there’s a lot in the balance. Your freedom for the rest of your life is at stake here.
These charges can’t be ignored or taken lightly, even if you’re innocent.
Hiring a skilled and aggressive Rhode Island criminal defense lawyer is the best way to protect your future. Trying to navigate the state’s legal system alone—while carrying the stress of these charges— won’t get you the best possible outcome.
How Do You Find a Lawyer with Experience Defending Capital Cases in Rhode Island?
Look no further, because John E. MacDonald has successfully defended criminal cases in Rhode Island—including capital cases—for over 25 years.
With a 10/10 Avvo rating and hundreds of 5-star ratings from past clients, you can always count on our law firm to have your back. And when you’re up against capital felony charges, you need an expert to rely on.
The sooner you contact us, the sooner we can start building your defense and fighting for your freedom. We’re open 24 hours a day. All you have to do is call us at (401) 421-1440 to get started.