Close X

RHODE ISLAND CRIMINAL DEFENSE BLOG

Rhode Island Makes Changes to Probation Violation Laws and Procedures

Posted by Matthew Marin | Jun 19, 2010 | 0 Comments

R.I. modifies law on probationers after four-year campaign

Sunday, June 20, 2010

By John Hill

The Providence Journal / Bob Thayer

PROVIDENCE — People imprisoned for probation violations will be freed if they are cleared of the charge that led to their being sent back to prison under a new law Governor Carcieri allowed to take effect without his signature.

The governor's decision this month capped a four-year effort by supporters to change what they said was an inequity in the state's probation system, one that they said led to people who were found not guilty of crimes, in effect, serving time for them.

“Sweet,” said John Prince Jr., chairman of Direct Action for Rights and Equality, who was sent back to prison in 1991 because he was arrested on a robbery charge while on probation. That robbery charge was dismissed. Had the new law been in effect then, he would have been freed.

“I'm, like, I can't describe how I feel,” he said.

Carcieri vetoed previous versions in 2007 and 2008. In response to his past criticisms, supporters said, this year's bill was tightened to limit the number of cases in which probation violators were allowed to appeal.

A person convicted of a crime can be put on probation instead of serving prison time, or serve some time, get out of prison and be put on probation. In exchange, the probationer agrees to be of good behavior and “keep the peace.”

Under the old system, if that person on probation were charged with a new crime, the fact of the new charge alone was usually considered sufficient evidence of failure to keep the peace, and the person could be sent back to prison to serve some or all of the probation sentence. Even if the probationer was later found not guilty of the new charge, he or she still had to stay in prison.

Now, a person serving a probation-violation sentence can go before a judge and request release if he or she is found not guilty of the new charge, if the charge is dismissed, if a grand jury refuses to indict or if the attorney general decides not to press it.

Carcieri spokeswoman Amy P. Kempe said the governor decided to let this year's bill take effect in light of the legislature having approved versions of it three times and the narrowing scope in this year's bill.

If Prince couldn't describe how he felt, Attorney General Patrick C. Lynch could. He said he was disappointed.

Lynch, who began his prosecution career handling violation hearings, said his office had worked with the governor and legislature on other changes, such as requiring the state to present more proof at a violation hearing.

He said his main objection was that the new law requires judges to release a probationer when the violation charge is dropped. Had the new law given the state a chance to argue against release in some cases, Lynch said his office might have been able to support the bill.

Rhode Island makes more use of probation and parole than most states. In a study of 2007 sentencing statistics, the Washington, D.C.-based Pew Center on the States found that 26,843 Rhode Islanders were on probation or parole, six times the number in the Adult Correctional Institutions.

The analysis said 1 in 31 Rhode Islanders was on either probation or parole, the fifth-highest ratio among the states. But it said Rhode Island was also less likely to resort to a prison sentence. The state's imprisonment ratio was 1 in every 187 residents, which puts it 46th out of the 50 states.New probation release law

Jailed probation violators can now be released if the charge they were arrested on:

  • Results in a not guilty verdict at trial
  • Doesn't lead to an indictment by a grand jury
  • Is dismissed
  • Is dropped for lack of evidence
  • Isn't prosecuted because the state doubts the defendant's guilt

About the Author

Matthew Marin

My name is Attorney Matthew Marin. I have dedicated my career to defending those charged with criminal offenses throughout Rhode Island. If you have been arrested or are under investigation for a criminal offense, we understand that are likely in an unfamiliar situation that can be extremely intimidating and even paralyzing. You may feel as if you do not know where to turn or who to ask for help. Fortunately, you have come to the right place to begin your search for answers and a successful resolution to your situation. We have extensive experience assisting thousands of clients facing drunk driving charges, domestic violence charges, and drug charges throughout Rhode Island.

Comments

There are no comments for this post. Be the first and Add your Comment below.

Leave a Comment

Attorney Marin Named A Super Lawyers Rising Star Four Consecutive Years 2014-2017

Attorney Matthew Marin was named a Rhode Island Rising Star by Super Lawyers for 4 consecutive years from 2014 thru 2017. Each year, no more than 2.5 percent of the lawyers in Rhode Island are selected by the Research Team at Super Lawyers to receive this honor. Super Lawyers selects lawyers who have attained a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement in their practice area.


Rhode Island Member of the National College for DUI Defense

Attorney Marin is a Rhode Island General Member of the National College for DUI Defense. Members represent some of the most experienced and cutting edge DUI defense attorney's throughout the Country. Nationwide, DUI laws are extremely complex and constantly changing and the College facilitates the exchange of innovative defenses throughout the Country.

NCDD National College for DUI Defense: Matthew Marin