Rhode Island Domestic Violence Attorney

Domestic violence is intentional and abusive behavior based on an unequal position of power and control between two people. Domestic violence can include physical or mental abuse that is used to control another with whom they have a close or family relationship with. Domestic violence is unfortunately common in intimate relationships – the relationship can turn sour and if they do, affection might turn into resentment, hate or even physical violence. Marriages that descend into separation and divorce are famous for prompting violence and threats. However the concept of domestic violence is not limited to marriages – even living in close quarters with someone else can provoke extreme behavior between cohabitants.

Unfortunately, even physical separation doesn’t always de-escalate the problem, the media is full of reports of people assaulting, stalking and terrorizing others with whom they previously had close relationships with. Domestic violence has taken center stage in our society. These cases now tend to be pursued with great resolve by prosecutors. The police reports that prosecutors use to evaluate and build cases, come from officers whose primary duty in responding to domestic violence calls is, by statute, to protect the victim. If you have questions or concerns about a domestic violence case, our Rhode Island domestic violence lawyer can help.

Did You Know?

Domestic violence cases can be extremely destructive. The mental and emotional toll is tremendous, especially when there are children involved. If physical violence is involved, it’s even worse. In the most extreme domestic violence cases, one person ends up seriously hurt or wrongfully killed, the other ends up in prison for a long period of time, and any surviving children are virtual orphans.

Domestic Violence Offenses Include:

Rhode Island law specifies a list of 16 crimes that could amount to domestic violence. Among them are:

The statute states that domestic violence isn’t limited to these offenses, leaving the door open to claims that other offenses may also qualify as domestic violence.

These crimes become domestic violence crimes when committed by one member of a family or household against another member of that family or household. Relationships deemed by law to be included in the category of “family or household” include:

The punishment for the domestic violence offense is an increase in the sentence for the underlying crime.

What Happens Following a Domestic Assault Charge?

At the time of your arrest, you will be given a court date and also a copy of a no contact order.  The no contact order is exactly that, you CANNOT contact that person in any way. If you do, you will be subject to a new charge and bail can be revoked.

It’s important that you contact an attorney to represent you for these charges.  Especially if you did not commit a crime and/or the complaining witness does not want to proceed on the charges.

At your first court appearance, your arraignment, you should enter a plea of not guilty.   The judge will most likely continue the no contact order unless the complaining witness appears and requests that a no contact order is not needed.

The Court will give you a date for a pre trial conference where you would go back to court and your attorney will speak with the prosecutor and try to get the case dismissed.

Mandatory Arrest

By law, the police are mandated to arrest any person that they have probable cause to believe has committed domestic violence consisting of:


The fact that probable cause is all that is required to justify the arrest means that the police have tremendous leeway in deciding when to arrest. They can arrest a defendant even when the victim does not want the person arrested. The arrest can be made without a warrant if it is within 24 hours of when the crime occurred; after that a warrant is required.

Domestic Violence Facts & Questions

Is verbal abuse considered domestic violence? Verbal abuse is considered domestic violence but it all depends on what was said in order to determine if the abuse is a crime. Many times verbal abuse is a ground for one person to get a restraining order on the other person.  

What relationships qualify for domestic violence? There are many types of domestic relationships. Some but not all qualify in Rhode Island as being a domestic relationship. Examples of these relationships are: Parents, siblings, wives, husbands, siblings, children, anyone who lives in the same household as you which can include room mates.  

What are the range of penalties for domestic violence offenses? Penalties for domestic violence offenses depends on what the offense is. For example, misdemeanors carry up to one year in jail maximum sentence while felonies can significant jail time especially for repeat offenders. There more serious the offense the harsher the penalties.   

What happens when you call the police to report domestic violence? Police will investigate the incident the same way they investigate all calls. Police will respond to the scene or ask you to come in to make a statement.  At that point, the police will decide what to do with the information.   Police should speak to both sides and any witnesses who were present. If there is a domestic disturbance of any sort and police arrive on scene, one or more people may be arrested.  

I’ve been falsely accused of domestic violence, what evidence will help prove my innocence? I have had many clients in this situation and what I always do is investigate the situation and the incident myself.  Speak with witnesses, review statements from the complaining witness and anyone else.  Look into the domestic relationship and any history of prior police involvement and any history of exaggeration by the complaining witness. Many times there are videos, phone messages, social media posts or texts that will help prove innocence.  

How to protect yourself if you suspect an accuser will report false allegations of domestic violence against you? Speak to an attorney right away and get legal help and advice.  

What rights do I have if I have been arrested for domestic violence in Rhode Island? You have all the rights that any other defendant has and that includes the presumption of innocence.  It is up to the State or town to prove each and every element beyond a reasonable doubt. You have the right to hire an attorney and fight to get the charges dismissed.   

What happens if a police report was made for domestic violence and the accuser does not return phone calls to the police or show up at court date? Many times the prosecutor will have to decide if she or he can prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt with out the accuser there to testify. Many times, if the accuser is unwilling to help in court the case will get dismissed.  

How long do you have to file a police report for domestic violence in Rhode Island? You can always file a police report and depending on what the accusation is then the police will look at the statue of limitation to determine whether or not a person can get charged with a crime.  

Arrested for Domestic Violence? Call our Rhode Island Defense Attorney

At the Law Offices of Stefanie A. Murphy, our defense attorney can help fight your criminal defense charges. Take advantage of the free consultation and learn about your rights and about the legal system so that you can make an informed decision about what to do. Defense lawyer, Stefanie Murphy, has successfully handled domestic assault and battery charges throughout Rhode Island and has been successful in getting the charges dismissed at the pre-trial stage. Stefanie is also willing to go to trial and fight for her clients.

Victims of domestic assault/battery, harassment and anyone who is in fear of another (with a domestic relationship) can apply for a temporary restraining order from the District Court. The victim will file a complaint/affidavit with the Court. A judge will review the affidavit and decide whether a temporary order is needed. If so, the temporary order will remain in affect for ten (10) days and a hearing date will be scheduled. In the meantime, the defendant will be served and will be given a copy of the order and a notice of the Court date.

Rhode Island offers several types of protective orders (also known as restraining orders) to keep potentially dangerous people away from those they may harm, harass or stalk. They may be emergency orders, issued before a hearing, or temporary or permanent orders issued after a hearing.

When someone is arrested on a domestic violence charge, it’s mandatory that the defendant appear in court before being released, and that the judge issue a protective order that prohibits the defendant from contacting the alleged victim.

If you have been accused of domestic violence, you need the help of an experienced Rhode Island domestic violence attorney. Criminal defense lawyer, Stefanie A. Murphy, knows that there are two sides to these stories, and she makes sure that the defendant’s story is heard and that their rights aren’t violated. We understand that there are many situations in which these claims serve as leverage for the victim, and how emotions tend to boil over on both sides. Conviction of a domestic violence charge not only is likely to cost you your freedom, it comes with a stigma that may affect the rest of your life. Get the experienced help you need by calling our Rhode Island office today!