Under Rhode Island criminal law, “Domestic Violence” is defined as any violent crime committed between family and household members. These crimes include but are not limited to, assault, sexual assault, vandalism, disorderly conduct, trespass, kidnapping, homicide, stalking, burglary, arson, etc.
A family or household member includes spouses, former spouses, persons related by blood or marriage, persons who live together or who have lived together in the past three (3) years, persons who have children together, or persons who are, or have been, in a substantive dating or engagement relationship within the past one year.
Under Rhode Island General Law § 12-29-4, when a person is charged or arrested for a domestic violence offense, he or she must be arraigned before the Court or a bail commissioner.
If the Court or bail commissioner orders the person’s release on bail, it will also issue a no-contact order which prohibits the person charged or from having contact with the alleged victim in the case. The requirement to impose a non-contact order at arraignment is mandatory under Rhode Island criminal law. The Courts and bail commissioners have no discretion.
After the no-contact order is issued, the defendant must obey by the terms and refrain from any contact with the alleged victim. If the no-contact order is violated, it will be considered a separate criminal offense and also serve as a violation of bail.
Violating of a no-contact order
Violating of a no-contact order is independently considered a misdemeanor offense under Rhode Island criminal law that is punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and/or imprisonment at the Adult Corrections Center (ACI) for up to one (1) year. This penalty may be found at Rhode Island General Law § 8-8.1-3. Further, as a bail violation, breaching the terms of a no-contact order is punishable by up to 90 days at the ACI.
When does a no-contact order gets dropped or vacated?
Often times defendants and/or alleged victims of domestic violence offenses want the domestic no-contact order imposed between them dropped or vacated. No-contact orders may terminate automatically, or upon an order of the court upon application by the parties. Vacating a no-contact order occurs automatically when either the underlying domestic violence charges against the defendant are dismissed, or the criminal sentence imposed for a domestic violence conviction ends.
For example, if a defendant is sentenced to a one-year filing, prison term, period of probation, or any combination thereof, once the sentence is complete, the no-contact order terminates.
Apply to have the no-contact order terminated
A party may also apply to the Court to have a no-contact order terminated. This application may be made by either the defendant and/or complaining witness. The applicant may appear before the Court with or without an attorney. If a party wishes to have the no-contact order terminated, he or she must visit the Court, notify the Clerk’s Office, and appear before a judge.
The applicant is the complaining witness or alleged victim in the case, he or she must also confer with a Domestic Violence Victim Advocate employed by the Court to express the desire to have the No-Contact Order vacated and persuade the advocate that he or she is not in fear of the defendant. The advocate will relay the applicant’s wishes and sentiments once before the Court.
Many judges are reluctant to vacate domestic no-contact orders during the pretrial stage of any domestic violence charges. If the charges are resolved by way of a disposition that results in the imposition of a sentence, the defendant will be required to participate in domestic violence courses known in Rhode Island as a Batterers Intervention Program.
Judges are more likely to order the termination of a no-contact order, upon the request of the parties, once the defendant is either successfully enrolled in and attending the program, or better yet, has successfully completed it.
Having a domestic no-contact order vacated by the Court may be challenging. If you wish to do so, it is advised that you retain an attorney to assist in this regard. Lawyers are trained advocates who are best qualified to persuade the judge that there exists no danger further domestic violence by vacating the order. This is the key to successfully having the order vacated, either pretrial or after a sentence is imposed. If you have been charged with a domestic violence crime in Rhode Island or are a named victim in a domestic violence case and wish to have a no-contact order vacated, please contact the Law Office of John L. Calcagni III, Inc. for a free consultation at (401) 351-5100 or email.