First-degree murder charges in Rhode Island
Murder is the unlawful killing of a human being. A murder that is willful, deliberate, malicious, and premeditated is called First Degree Murder. Under Rhode Island Criminal law, First Degree Murder may be found under Rhode Island General Laws, Section 11-23-1.
Legal elements of first-degree murder
In order to be convicted of first-degree murder, there must exist strong evidence of the following legal elements:
- that the defendant willfully caused the death of another person;
- that the defendant acted with malice aforethought; and
- that the defendant acted with premeditation.
Important definitions for murder crimes
An act is done “willfully” if it was done voluntarily and intentionally, and not by mistake or accident. The terms “maliciously” and “with premeditation” mean deliberate and voluntary actions resulting from the defendant’s prior consideration of the act itself. The defendant must have already fixed in his mind for more than a moment the intent to kill before the fatal act occurred; and, that conscious fixation must have been more than just a fleeting or momentary thought.
The term “malice” is an essential element of First Degree Murder. Malice may be express or implied. An act is committed with malice when it is committed with wanton disregard for the probability of either death or great bodily harm. Malice may be found from either an express intent to kill or to inflict great bodily harm, or it may be implied from wanton recklessness and an extreme indifference to the sanctity of human life. Express malice may be based upon a settled design against or upon a victim, and it may be implied or inferred from all of the surrounding circumstances, including the means by which death occurred.
The term “malice aforethought” is the conscious design or intent to kill. That is to say, that before killing the victim, the defendant thought about doing it, and he thereafter acted upon that thought. That conscious intent or design to kill, however, must have existed in the defendant’s mind for more than a mere moment’s duration.
Potential punishment if convicted of first-degree murder in Rhode Island
Under Rhode Island criminal law, First Degree Murder that is punishable by imprisonment for life. This penalty may be found at Rhode Island General Laws, Section 11-23-2.
Bail for defendants charged with first degree murder
First Degree Murder under Rhode Island criminal law is considered a capital offense. Capital offenses are those punishable by either life imprisonment or the death penalty. Rhode Island does not recognize the death penalty. Article I, Section 9 of the Rhode Island Constitution provides that were proof of guilt is evident or the presumption of guilt is great as to a capital offense, the Court may order that a defendant remain held without bail while awaiting trial.
The hold without bail is triggered upon a motion by the prosecution. Once the motion is filed, the Court shall order a defendant held without bail subject to the outcome of an evidentiary bail hearing. A bail hearing is a forward-looking hearing where the prosecution bears the burden of establishing through trial admissible evidence that proof of the defendant’s guilt is evident or the presumption of his guilt is great with regard to a charged capital offense (i.e. murder).
If the prosecution fails to meet its burden, the Court must release the defendant on bail. If the prosecution meets its burden, the Court may exercise its discretion to either set bail or order that the defendant remain held while awaiting trial, after considering the defendant’s community ties, reputation for respecting the law, flight risk, and severity of sentence to be imposed, if convicted, after trial.
If you have been charged with a First Degree Murder offense and need experienced representation, contact the Rhode Island Murder Defense Lawyers at the Law Office of John L. Calcagni III email or call today at (401) 351-5100 to schedule a free consultation.