Do You Need a Criminal Defense Attorney for Misdemeanors in Rhode Island?
Being charged with a misdemeanor crime in Rhode Island can be a stressful and emotionally challenging experience. You may be experiencing feelings of fear, anxiety, shame, and uncertainty about your future. An experienced Rhode Island misdemeanor lawyer can help you prepare and organize for the challenges ahead and pursue a strategy to minimize the adverse effects of these allegations.
Though misdemeanor crimes are less serious than felony crimes, they can be a significant challenge to various facets of your life. The initial shock of being charged with a crime may cause you distress, prompting a wave of emotions that may consist of fear about potential penalties, concerns about the impact on your reputation, and anxiety about the legal process you face ahead. There can be a lot of unpredictability surrounding what will happen in a case, and you may worry about potential jail time, hefty fines, or a criminal record that could affect your employment prospects or your personal life.
You may also be concerned about how misdemeanor charges affect your family and personal relationships. You might be wondering how to approach the cost of legal fees, the lost time and commitment involved in court proceedings, and the possibility of being socially branded with a criminal conviction. You are likely anxious regarding the complexities of the criminal justice process and your steps ahead following a criminal charge.
Taking The Right Early Actions Can Greatly Benefit Your Misdemeanor Case and Bring You Peace of Mind
Promptly reaching out to a skilled criminal defense lawyer in Providence, Rhode Island, can help you alleviate some of these fears and anxieties while taking strategic and purposeful actions to address the issues in your case. An experienced Rhode Island criminal defense attorney can guide you through the legal process, explain your rights, answer your questions, and work diligently to defend your future. You can better understand the charges against you, the potential consequences, and the range of defenses available.
Act quickly to minimize the negative effects of criminal allegations with the help of legal representation from a Rhode Island criminal defense attorney experienced in misdemeanor charge cases. Early intervention by an attorney can sometimes lead to reduced charges or even dismissed. It also provides you and your criminal defense lawyer more time to prepare a solid defense strategy. Call me today at the Law Offices of Thomas G. Briody to discuss your case.
Types of Misdemeanors in Rhode Island
In Rhode Island, misdemeanor charges are categorized into two types of criminal offenses: misdemeanors and petty misdemeanors.
Common crimes that are misdemeanors in Rhode Island include:
Petty misdemeanor charges in Rhode Island may include:
In Rhode Island, a misdemeanor crime may become a felony due to a variety of factors. For instance, repeat offenses can escalate the severity of the crime. Also, the circumstances surrounding the criminal offense, such as the involvement of a weapon, causing serious harm or injury, or committing the crime against a protected class (like a minor or an elderly person), can lead to a misdemeanor being upgraded to a felony. Drunk driving charges can be misdemeanors or felonies, depending on the circumstances, as can domestic violence crimes. Criminal offenses involving possession of marijuana and some other drugs can drastically increase in severity if you have larger quantities or if you distribute or sell the drugs.
Petty misdemeanors can also lead to serious short-term and long-term consequences, though they are typically not as severe as more serious crimes. Some petty misdemeanors may lead to only a fine, avoiding a jail sentence.
An assault charge often accompanies disorderly conduct, and simple assault is a misdemeanor — but felony assault may also be possible. The events leading to such criminal cases can be very subjective, and perhaps not all charges will stick. After considering witness statements and the police report, there may be a viable argument to seek to have simple assault charges dropped when they accompany a disorderly conduct charge.
Your Rhode Island criminal lawyer can advise you regarding the circumstances of your misdemeanor or petty misdemeanor case.
Differentiating Misdemeanors from Civil Violations
The significant differences between misdemeanors and civil violations lie in the nature and seriousness of the offense, the court that handles the case, and the potential penalties involved. Civil violations are breaches of public rights and duties that are not criminal offenses but could affect the whole community or only an individual.
Civil violations may include — but are not limited to — the following:
- Traffic violations
- Minor disputes between individuals
- Disputes between businesses
Civil violations are typically handled by the Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal or the civil division of the district or superior courts. While the penalties for misdemeanor crimes can include up to one year of imprisonment and up to a $1,000 fine, the penalties for civil violations generally involve fines, restitution, or injunctive relief, rather than imprisonment.
What Happens When You Are Arrested for a Misdemeanor in Rhode Island
The following is an overview of the process that typically unfolds once someone is arrested for a misdemeanor crime in Rhode Island — unless the charges are dismissed at any point:
- Arrest: The process begins with an arrest by law enforcement. If you have not yet been arrested, but you anticipate arrest, contact a Rhode Island criminal defense attorney immediately to seek legal guidance and assistance.
- Processing: After the arrest, the individual is taken into police custody and processed. It usually involves fingerprinting, photographing, and documenting the individual’s personal information.
- Charging: The police decide whether to charge the individual with a misdemeanor offense. Even after an arrest, they can choose to drop the charges. Your Rhode Island misdemeanor lawyer may be able to intervene and encourage the police to drop the criminal charges against you.
- Release or Detainment: Depending on the circumstances, the police might release the individual with a “Summons to Appear” in court, or they may detain them until their arraignment hearing.
- Arraignment: At the arraignment hearing, the charges are formally read to the defendant, who enters a plea. Typically, defendants plead not guilty at this stage, and a pre-trial date is set. Your attorney will advise you if it is in your interest to plead guilty, but guilty pleas are often inadvisable unless a strategic plea deal accompanies them. Most people who plead guilty do so in the context of a plea bargain; it is uncommon and usually against your interests to simply plead guilty.
- Bail Decision: A judge or bail commissioner determines whether the defendant can be released on bail, pending trial. If not, you will experience additional jail time before your trial and throughout the court process.
- Pre-Trial Conference: During the pre-trial conference, the defense and prosecution discuss the case and may negotiate a plea bargain.
- Trial: If no plea bargain is reached, the case proceeds to trial. In Rhode Island, misdemeanor cases are heard in District Court, where there are no jury trials. Instead, a judge (in a bench trial) hears the case. Under these circumstances, your Rhode Island criminal lawyer will guide you to help you anticipate court processes during your trial.
- Verdict: The judge renders a verdict. If the defendant is found guilty, the case moves to sentencing.
- Sentencing Hearing: If convicted of a misdemeanor crime, the defendant can face no more than one year of jail time and fines not exceeding $1,000. Under these circumstances, you may discuss with your experienced criminal defense lawyer whether you have cause to appeal.
Your personal or criminal history can affect the process, verdict, and/or sentencing in a misdemeanor case. For example, first-time offenders for certain misdemeanor crimes may be offered a “filing,” where the case is paused for one year and then dismissed and sealed if you do not commit additional violations or arrests under the filing terms — eligibility for sealing of domestic offenses is an exception, as the wait time under these circumstances is three years.
Punishments for a misdemeanor conviction can also vary, and acting early can be a crucial factor in improving your future situation. A jail sentence can reverberate throughout your life, disrupting future opportunities long after the criminal justice process has concluded. Discuss your unique situation and concerns with your Rhode Island misdemeanor defense lawyer.
Minimizing Negative Consequences for a Misdemeanor in Rhode Island
It is important to take immediate, informed actions to minimize negative consequences if you have been charged with a misdemeanor in Rhode Island — or if you believe you may soon be charged. An experienced Rhode Island criminal defense lawyer can begin providing legal representation immediately, which could help you avoid jail time, reduce the quantity or severity of criminal charges against you, or even lead to having your criminal charges dropped.
Early Opportunities for a Criminal Defense Attorney To Reduce Negative Effects:
- Pre-charge Intervention: Early involvement of a defense attorney can sometimes prevent charges from being filed for a misdemeanor in Rhode Island. It can happen if your Rhode Island criminal defense lawyer can demonstrate to the prosecutor that there is insufficient evidence or that there are other reasons why the case should not proceed. Your Rhode Island criminal defense attorney should look for opportunities early and often to have your charges dropped. Call me at my law office immediately if you may soon face a misdemeanor in Rhode Island.
- Plea Negotiations: If charges are filed, plea negotiations may offer an opportunity to reduce the charges or potential penalties. A plea deal can improve your situation if you are going to plead guilty. A knowledgeable Rhode Island misdemeanor lawyer can negotiate on your behalf to seek a plea agreement that is in your interests. A good plea deal involving a lesser criminal charge can open up long-term opportunities for you in your personal and professional life, and reduced or dropped charges could potentially make your criminal records eligible for expungement.
- Pretrial Motions: Your Rhode Island criminal defense lawyer can file pretrial motions to suppress evidence, dismiss charges, or challenge the legality of certain procedures, which can significantly improve the circumstances of your case.
An Experienced Misdemeanor Defense Attorney Can Pursue Your Interests Throughout the Case:
- Trial Strategy: If your criminal case goes to trial, your attorney will develop a defense strategy tailored to your specific circumstances. Depending on several factors, including the details of your case and the strategy itself, this could effect an acquittal or reduced sentencing, perhaps reducing or removing jail time for your alleged criminal offenses.
- Sentencing Advocacy: If convicted of a criminal charge, your criminal defense lawyer can advocate for alternative or reduced sentencing options, such as probation, community service, or participation in treatment programs.
Your Rhode Island Criminal Defense Attorney May Advocate For You Post-Conviction:
- Motion for a New Trial: In some cases, newly-discovered evidence may be sufficient reason to file a Motion for a New Trial, but this must be made within three years of the misdemeanor conviction. If the grounds for Motion for a New Trial are anything other than newly-discovered evidence, it must be made within 10 days of the conviction.
- Appeals: If you seek to appeal following a conviction, your attorney has a strict filing deadline to meet. An appeal will often take more than a year. Denial of Motion for a New Trial can constitute grounds for an appeal. Other grounds can include improper admission or exclusion of particular evidence, insufficient evidence, misconduct on behalf of the jury or prosecution, and some other errors in the handling of your case or its procedure.
- Expungement: In some cases, you may be eligible to have your misdemeanor charges expunged, which effectively erases the conviction from your record for most purposes. Not all misdemeanor crimes are treated the same, as crimes of violence are not eligible. Expungement can significantly limit the long-term negative consequences you would suffer for a criminal conviction.
Working closely with a skilled and experienced criminal defense attorney throughout this process is crucial to your prospects while seeking to defend your future if you face charges in Rhode Island for a misdemeanor offense. Your Rhode Island criminal defense attorney can guide you through the complexities of the criminal justice system to help you make informed decisions at every step of your criminal case.
Contact the Law Offices of Thomas G. Briody in Providence, Rhode Island to Discuss Your Criminal Defense Options if You May Be Facing a Misdemeanor Charge
The implications of misdemeanor charges can make you feel like your whole world is in a tailspin, but promptly contacting an experienced misdemeanor defense lawyer can help you regain confidence and a level of control as you coordinate to strategically pursue opportunities to reduce negative effects while building your defense. Whether you face criminal charges for a serious misdemeanor offense or petty misdemeanor charges, you need to promptly take concerted action with the help of a criminal lawyer.
Don’t delay reaching out for a clear assessment of your situation from a knowledgeable and experienced criminal defense attorney who has helped many people in situations like the one you are now facing. In some circumstances, promptly contacting a criminal defense law firm can lead to having misdemeanor charges in Rhode Island dropped. You may be able to save a lot of heartache and frustration while working with a seasoned professional to defend your future.
Call (401) 751-5151 today to discuss your case and begin strategizing your next steps with legal services from an experienced Rhode Island criminal defense attorney who is deeply familiar with misdemeanor charges under Rhode Island criminal law, who understands your concerns, and who is prepared to help you navigate the workings of the criminal justice system.
Law Offices of Thomas G. Briody — Aggressive, Compassionate Defense