Domestic Violence Laws in Rhode Island

Published 11/19/2020

Rhode Island Domestic Violence

The Rhode Island General Assembly has enacted the Domestic Violence Prevention Act (RIGL 12-29).  The purpose of this act is to highlight domestic violence as a serious crime against society and to assure victims of domestic violence the maximum protection from abuse which the law and those who enforce the law can provide.

What Makes A Crime Domestic?

A crime is domestic when the parties involved are:

  • spouses,
  • former spouses,
  • adult persons related by blood or marriage,
  • adult persons who are presently residing together or who have resided together in the past three (3) years, and
  • persons who have a child in common regardless of whether they have been married or have lived together, or persons who are, or have been, in a substantive dating or engagement relationship within the past one year which shall be determined by the court's consideration of the following factors:

(1) The length of time of the relationship.

(2) The type of the relationship.

(3) The frequency of the interaction between the parties.


What Crimes Are Domestic?

According to RIGL 12-29-2 the following crimes can be domestic:

(1) Simple assault (§ 11-5-3);

(2) Felony assaults (chapter 5 of title 11);

(3) Vandalism (§ 11-44-1);

(4) Disorderly conduct (§ 11-45-1);

(5) Trespass (§ 11-44-26);

(6) Kidnapping (§ 11-26-1);

(7) Child-snatching (§ 11-26-1.1);

(8) Sexual assault (§§ 11-37-2, 11-37-4);

(9) Homicide (§§ 11-23-1 and 11-23-3);

(10) Violation of the provisions of a protective order entered pursuant to § 15-5-19, chapter 15 of title 15, or chapter 8.1 of title 8 where the respondent has knowledge of the order and the penalty for its violation, or a violation of a no contact order issued pursuant to § 12-29-4;

(11) Stalking (chapter 59 of title 11);

(12) Refusal to relinquish or to damage or to obstruct a telephone (§ 11-35-14);

(13) Burglary and Unlawful Entry (chapter 8 of title 11);

(14) Arson (chapter 4 of title 11);

(15) Cyberstalking and cyberharassment (§ 11-52-4.2);

(16) Domestic assault by strangulation § 11-5-2.3; and

(17) Electronic tracking of motor vehicles (§ 11-69-1).


Do Domestic Crimes Have Increased Penalties?


First Offense Domestic Convictions will be ordered to attend and complete Batterer’s Intervention Program (BIP), $125 Court Assessment (80% goes to Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence), and a No Contact Order (NCO) will issue.

Second Offense Domestic Convictions will result in a mandatory minimum of 10 days to serve up to 1 year at the ACI. Also, you will be required to attend and complete BIP, an NCO will issue, and you will have to pay the $125 Court Assessment.

Third Offense Domestic Convictions will result in a mandatory minimum of 1 Year to Serve at the ACI with a maximum sentence of 10 years. Along with the BIP, NCO and court assessments.


Will a Domestic Violence Conviction Affect My Ability to Own/ Possess Firearms?


You are prohibited under § 11-47-5(a)(3) or § 11-47-5(a)(4) from purchasing, owning, carrying, transporting, or having in his or her possession any firearm. You must also surrender any firearm(s) in their ownership, possession, care, custody, or control.

If you plead nolo to or had been convicted of a domestic offense you will not be able to own, possess, control, or otherwise use a firearm until the case has been expunged, or upon the completion of the one-year filing, or the end of a one-year probationary period that  does not constitute a conviction pursuant to RIGL 12-18-3 (which states that a nolo plea followed by straight probation, upon successful completion of that probationary period without violation of probation, will not constitute a conviction for any purpose.)  ** like all aspects of the law there are exceptions to this rule **

If you violate this restriction you will face a mandatory imprisonment of not less than 2 years up to 10 years (RIGL 11-47-5).

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