Domestic Violence in Rhode Island: Four Facts to Know
  • First, although acts of domestic violence can be subject to prosecution in Rhode Island, the state enacts penalties for them by stiffening the penalties for crimes committed in a domestic situation. In other words, domestic violence is not a stand-alone offense, but can be prosecuted under statutes for assault, stalking and cyberstalking, rape and other forcible sexual relations, and violation of a protective order.
  • Second, Rhode Island defines domestic violence fairly broadly in terms of perpetrators and potential victims. These can include family and household members, spouses, ex-spouses, people related by either blood or marriage, people who have had children together, people who live together, and people who have been in recent dating relationships.
  • Third, police must arrest a person for domestic abuse at any point they have probable cause to suspect any of three situations: 1) felony assault or bodily injury (even if the results of the assault or injury are not visible); 2) a physical event whose intent is to cause fear of bodily injury; or 3) violation of a protective order. (Probable cause consists of a reasonable belief that a crime has happened.)
  • Fourth, in the case of assaults in a domestic situation, police may make an arrest without a warrant within a 24-hour period after the assault allegedly happened. (Usually, police must get an arrest warrant or have personally observed a crime occurring before making an arrest.) After the 24-hour period for a domestic situation, however, police must get a warrant to make an arrest.

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