Rhode Island Criminal Defense Lawyer

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Rhode Island Criminal Defense Lawyer

Rhode Island Criminal Defense Attorney

If you are charged with a crime in the State of Rhode Island, it can be an overwhelming experience especially if you are not used to the process. The State of Rhode Island has its own set of laws and criminal procedure.

It is important that you have an experienced criminal defense lawyer who understands the Rhode Island courts and their different laws. Ellison Law LLC has experienced criminal defense lawyers who represent clients in Rhode Island who have been charged with crimes.

We understand the level of anxiety a person can experience when facing a criminal accusation and charge. We will keep you informed throughout the whole process of your criminal case. From representing clients over the years, this page has some answers to some common questions we receive about Rhode Island criminal defense.

Ellison Law LLC is dedicated to the aggressive legal representation of clients involving Rhode Island criminal charges and Massachusetts criminal charges. Ellison Law LLC has criminal defense lawyers who have represented many clients from misdemeanors to felonies punishable by life in prison. They understand that your case, no matter how big or small, is likely the most important thing in your life. They understand your future is on the line.

When charged with a crime, it is important to hire a criminal defense attorney who will fight for you and keep you informed throughout all stages of your criminal case. The lawyers at Ellison Law LLC have represented clients throughout all stages of a criminal defense case from arraignment through trial. If you have been charged with a crime, it is extremely important to hire an experienced criminal defense lawyer to protect your rights.

What is the Arraignment Process in Rhode Island?

An arraignment is a hearing in open court where a judge formally reads the charge or charges to a defendant and asks the defendant how they plead.

While the precise timing of arraignment varies, it usually needs to occur within a reasonable time of the defendant being arrested and charged. Arraigning the defendant at an early stage ensures their case is progressing and they’re not spending more time in custody than necessary.

At an Arraignment, the judge will determine what your plea is, who your lawyer might be, and what your bail conditions will be.

If you or a loved one has been arrested, you do not have to fight the charges alone, you can contact Rhode Island criminal defense lawyers at Ellison Law LLC. Fill out a contact form or call us at 401-230-5520 to schedule a consultation to learn more.

Understanding Pleas at an Arraignment in Rhode Island

When a judge asks a defendant how they plead to a charge during an arraignment hearing, a defendant can enter a plea of not guilty, guilty, or nolo contendere (no contest).

A not guilty plea indicates the defendant is contesting the allegations and the matter will be scheduled for a pretrial conference and it may proceed to a trial at a later date.

A n olo contendere (no contest) plea or guilty plea indicates the defendant is accepting responsible and admitting to the charges. This means the judge will move onto sentencing the defendant for the crime they are entering a plea on.

What is a Pretrial Conference in Rhode Island?

A pretrial hearing is a meeting between the prosecutors for the State of Rhode Island and the defense to discuss how a case will proceed and to resolve any preliminary issues before a trial starts. Pretrial hearings involve the prosecution, defense, and judge.

Pretrial hearings aim to narrow the issues in a case and help resolve any issues prior to the trial. They can often lead to an early resolution of a case so it doesn’t need to go to trial.

At a pretrial hearing, the parties may:

  • Request discovery be provided to either side
  • Challenge the admissibility of certain evidence, for example, an illegal search or other unlawfully obtained evidence
  • Conference the case with the judge
  • Negotiate a plea deal
  • Agree on undisputed facts to narrow the issues for trial
  • Discuss witness availability issues

Pretrial hearings are also sometimes referred to as pretrial conferences or status conferences. Navigating the criminal justice system on your own is never a good idea because the rules can be so technical and you have a lot at stake with a criminal charge.

At Ellison Law LLC, we have skilled Rhode Island criminal defense lawyers who can represent you, contact us at 401-230-5520 or fill out an online form today.

When are Criminal Pretrial Conferences Held in Rhode Island?

In criminal cases, pretrial conferences are held after the defendant’s arraignment (initial appearance) and before the trial. They are the in between of the case. Most cases resolve at a pretrial conference and do not go to trial, which is why they are so important in a criminal case.

Do Rhode Island Defendants Need To Attend a Pretrial Conference?

The court will advise a defendant whether they need to attend a specific pretrial conference.

If the defendant fails to appear as required, the court can impose sanctions on them, including a warrant for the defendant’s arrest.

Why Does a Pretrial Conference Matter?

Pretrial conferences in Rhode Island are critical to the outcome of a criminal matter. When used strategically, they may resolve the need to go to trial altogether.

For example, a pretrial hearing may reveal the strengths or weaknesses of a case which leads to the prosecution withdrawing the charges, the defendant deciding to plead no contest to the charges, or the parties agreeing to a plea deal.

For a defendant, a pretrial conference is an important mechanism to assert and protect their constitutional rights. It also helps prepare their defense. For these reasons, it’s a good idea to consult a criminal defense attorney about any pretrial hearings that may be needed in your matter.

Bench Trials for Misdemeanor Criminal Charges in Rhode Island

When you are charged with a misdemeanor offense in Rhode Island, your case is originally heard in the District Court. There are no jury trials in District Court in Rhode Island, instead there are bench trials with a judge in District Court.

You have the right to waive this proceeding and go straight to Superior Court where you eventually can have a trial with a jury. Instead, many defendants elect to stay in District Court. Their misdemeanor charge can be resolved in District Court.

This means you have a right to have a trial in front of a judge in the District Court. This is called a bench trial. If you are found guilty at the bench trial, you are entitled to appeal that judgment to the Superior Court and have a de novo trial before a jury.

What is a Bench Trial in a Criminal Case in Rhode Island?

In a bench trial, a judge hears the evidence, determines the facts and any legal issues that arise, and decides whether you are guilty or not guilty. There is no jury involved in a bench trial – it is just the judge who hears the case.

The same procedural and evidentiary rules apply to bench trials and jury trials. And in both cases, the prosecution must prove the charge against the defendant beyond a reasonable doubt. In a jury trial, the jurors decide whether the prosecution has done this. However, in a bench trial, this is the role of the judge. The judge is the sole person to decide whether you are guilty or not guilty.

What are The Benefits of a Bench Trial in Rhode Island?

There are several advantages to a bench trial, depending on the circumstances of a case.

More Efficient

Bench trials generally lead to a quicker resolution. This is because there is no jury selection process and the court doesn’t have to explain the relevant law to a jury. A bench trial flows more smoothly, as a judge can discuss any issues with the parties as they arise, rather than sending the jury out each time.

More Neutral Decision Maker

A defendant may elect for a bench trial because judges can apply the law in a more neutral, dispassionate way. Given their professional experience, they can set aside any potential biases. A judge can also set aside any potentially damaging, inadmissible information that may arise during a trial. It can be more difficult for jurors to disregard this information once they have heard it, even when they’re told to do so.

More Predictable

Bench trials are also considered more predictable. The parties can understand a judge’s position on a legal issue before the trial starts based on previous rulings. This is especially the case if the same judge hears and decides any pretrial motions, as well as the trial. In comparison, the only opportunity to gauge a juror’s position is during voir dire.

Complex Legal Arguments

Finally, a bench trial may be preferable where a case involves technical legal arguments. A judge has expert legal knowledge of the law and can understand and apply complex legal concepts. A jury in the same case may find it more challenging to do so.

What is a Jury Trial in a Criminal Case in Rhode Island?

During a jury trial in Rhode Island, a group of regular people form the community (jurors) hear the evidence and legal arguments, decide the facts of the case, and determine whether a defendant is guilty or not guilty. The jurors all have to unanimously agree that you are guilty or not guilty. If they do not agree, it can be a mistrial and the defendant can face trial again.

The judge is not involved in determining the verdict in a jury trial. Their role is to oversee the proceedings to ensure they follow the correct procedure and rule on any legal issues.

The right to a trial by a jury is protected by the Sixth Amendment, which says in a criminal case, “the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury”.

How are Rhode Island Jury Members Selected?

A jury is chosen from a pool of randomly selected people in a process called voir dire. During voir dire, the judge, prosecution, and defense ask potential jurors questions to assess their suitability to hear a case.

A judge can excuse jurors who are not legally qualified to serve on a jury or if doing so would cause undue hardship for them, for example, where they are the sole carer for a sick family member. A judge can also excuse a juror with an actual or implied bias that prevents them from performing their role impartially.

The prosecution and defense can ask for certain jurors to be removed by making “for cause” and peremptory challenges.

How a Criminal Defense Attorney in Rhode Island Can Help You

These are just some factors you may consider when deciding to have a bench trial over a jury trial. But there are advantages and disadvantages to both. Deciding whether to waive your constitutional right to a jury trial is a nuanced issue and there are many complex considerations to take into account.

Before deciding, you should speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney at Ellison Law LLC. Our attorneys can help you identify the relevant factors such as the legal issues, potential defenses, and defense strategy so you can make the best tactical decision in your case. Fill out an online submission form or call us at 401-230-5520 for a consultation.

Career Dedication to Criminal Defense Legal Work

David Ellison, the founding attorney of Ellison Law LLC, first fell in love with criminal defense when he interned, after his first year of law school, in a public defender’s office in Mississippi and, after his second year of law school, in the Alaska public defender agency. He went on to spend his third year of law school working in the Roger Williams University School of Law Criminal Defense Clinic in Providence, Rhode Island.

As a lawyer, he worked full time for the Public Defender Division in Massachusetts where he represented hundreds of clients charged with criminal offenses. After working in the public defender’s office in Massachusetts, David decided to open up his own law firm. Since then he has represented many clients with criminal defense issues in both Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

Our Criminal Defense Strategy

Ellison Law LLC believes in challenging the case from different angles. When there is a dispute as to the facts of your case, we will develop the facts and take the case to trial if it is warranted. We will conduct our own independent investigation.

When there are legal issues surrounding your case, we will file motions to protect your legal rights. This may include a Motion to Dismiss, a Motion to Suppress or a Motion to Exclude Evidence. We will make sure the court knows who you are as a person and to treat you like one.

Our Personalized Criminal Defense Representation

We provide personalized legal representation based on your needs with your case. We will sit down with you and come up with a unique legal strategy for your case. Every case is different and every defendant is different.

This is why it is important for the client and the lawyer to work together on a unique legal strategy on how to attack the case. Don’t waste any time, call us today if you are in need of a Rhode Island criminal defense attorney or a Massachusetts criminal defense attorney.

What Types of Crimes Cases Do We Handle in Rhode Island?

Ellison Law LLC represents clients on an array of Rhode Island crimes, including the following:

What Courts Do We Serve?

  • Providence County Superior Court
  • Kent County Superior Court
  • Newport County Superior Court
  • Washington County Superior Court
  • Providence County District Court
  • Kent County District Court
  • Newport County District Court
  • Washington County Superior Court
  • Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal
  • All Municipal Courts in the State of Rhode Island

Any criminal charge is a serious matter that requires a serious response. Rhode Island Criminal Defense Attorneys at Ellison Law LLC focus their practice on the defense of individuals charged with misdemeanor and felony criminal offenses throughout the State of Rhode Island.

If you are charged with a crime in the State of Rhode Island, contact Ellison Law LLC today.


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