Rhode Island District Court Bail Hearings Attorney

What to expect at a district court bail hearing in Rhode Island

In Rhode Island, when a person is arrested for a criminal misdemeanor the person can either be held and then brought to Court for an arraignment in District Court in the morning by a Judge or a Bail Commissioner can be called.

Bail commissioners are individuals who are appointed by the Chief Judge of the District Court and who have the authority to conduct an arraignment (special arraignment) to decide whether a person who has been arrested and taken into police custody should be released.

About the arraignment

The arraignment usually takes place at the police department and is held when court is not in session – evenings, weekends, and holidays. Even though the person is arraigned by a bail commissioner, he or she must still attend a formal arraignment in the District Court after his or her release from police custody.

Bail Commissioner fee

A Bail Commissioner (Justice of the Peace) will charge a non-refundable fee for performing the arraignment at the police station.

The formal arraignment

At the formal arraignment the criminal defendant will plead either not guilty, or nolo contendere to the criminal charges.

Nolo contendere

Nolo contendere means the person is admitting to the charges but is not contesting them. It is not recommended that a defendant plead guilty and it is strongly advisable retain a lawyer. If the accused cannot afford a private criminal attorney they will be appointed one from the Rhode Island Public Defender’s office. After the person pleads not guilty, the person will typically be released on bail. It is recommended that the accused hire a criminal defense attorney to represent him/ her at the arraignment.

If the offense is a misdemeanor offense, the typical bail will be by personal recognizance. This means the person will be released with the promise of returning to court for future hearings and without having to pay any monetary amount. If the person fails to attend court like promised, the amount set by the court that represents the personal recognizance bail will be owed by the defendant to the State. If the Rhode Island District Court judge orders cash bail, the accused must pay that amount in cash to be released. If it is cash bail than the defendant cannot post property.

If the Judge sets bail and the defendant cannot post the required amount, the defendant is entitled to what is called a “Bail Hearing” in front of a Judge of the Rhode Island District Court.

Bail Hearing

At this hearing, the State is required to produce evidence to satisfy the judge that the case is one which warrants holding the defendant at the prison pending trial.

Holding the defendant is usually because the person is a repeat criminal offender, the allegations are particularly bad, or the person has a history of failing to attend court. If any of these circumstances are present, then the court still has the option to set bail with surety.

Surety Bail

Surety bail means the person will pay ten percent of the total amount or they could post property valued at the full amount. However, if the person does not have the ability to pay the ten percent there are still options available.

Bail bondsman

A bail bondsman could then be hired who would post the amount owed by the person and will also charge a fee for doing so. The money posted by the bail bondman will be returned to the person so long as they successfully attend all future Court dates for the case.

Even if the judge determines that surety bail is appropriate in the case the defendant is entitled to argue, by way of a Motion to Reduce Bail, that the bail should be reduced giving his economic and financial situation.

Lastly, the person could be ordered held without bail. This is typically for capital cases in which the defendant is facing a possible sentence of life imprisonment.

In Rhode Island, capital cases include:

  • murder
  • robbery
  • burglary
  • rape
  • robbery
  • arson

In these cases, the State can hold the defendant at the prison pending trial.


If you believe you have been charged with a new offense and seek to be released on bail, contact the bail hearing attorneys at the Law Office of John L. Calcagni III by email or call today at (401) 351-5100 to schedule a free consultation.