Arraignment in Rhode Island

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In general, a Rhode Island officer making an arrest pursuant to a warrant that’s been issued on a complaint must take the arrestee to a district court judge as the warrant orders, “without unnecessary delay.” If the arrest is without a warrant, the officer must bring the arrestee to a district court judge, again, without unnecessary delay. If there’s no warrant, the government must file a complaint at the suspect’s first court appearance. (Super. R. Crim. P., Rule 5(a), Dist. R. Crim. P., Rules 5(a) and 9(a).)

For more information on Rhode Island procedure, see “What is the Procedure If am Charged with a Crime?” by the Rhode Island Public Defender. For other information to supplement this article, see Arraignment: Getting to Court. Also see How should I plead at arraignment?

After Arrest: Bail

After an arrest, the court must afford the arrestee a “prompt” hearing for release on bail. If the arrest was pursuant to a warrant and the warrant lists the amount of bail, the authorities must also take the suspect to an official authorized to accept bail.

For certain very serious offenses, the district court judge may transfer the arrestee to superior court—this superior court appearance is to occur “as soon as practicable” and within 48 hours of the transfer order (excluding weekends and holidays). The superior court appearance can occur by way of audio/video conference. At this hearing, the judge must either hold a bail hearing or set a hearing date. (Super. R. Crim. P., Rule 5(a), Dist. R. Crim. P., Rules 5(a) and 9(a).)

Other Initial-Appearance Issues

At the initial appearance, the judge must inform the arrestee of:

  • the complaint and any affidavit filed with it
  • the right to counsel, either hired or appointed (for appointed counsel, the offense must carry a maximum punishment of more than six months), and
  • the right to a preliminary examination (not applicable in all cases).

The judge must also explain that the defendant isn’t required to make any statements, and that any statements may be used against him or her. The judge must allow the defendant a reasonable amount of time and a reasonable opportunity to consult with counsel. In many instances, the judge will then admit the defendant to bail. (Super. R. Crim. P., Rule 5(b), Dist. R. Crim. P., Rules 5(b) and 9(b).)

If the defendant waives the right to a preliminary examination, the case moves to superior court. If the defendant doesn’t waive that right, then the preliminary examination must occur “within a reasonable time.” (Super. R. Crim. P., Rule 5(c), Dist. R. Crim. P., Rule 5(c).)

Get Help

If you’ve been arrested or charged with a crime, contact a criminal defense attorney in your area as soon as possible. Practices and procedures can vary widely even within states. An experienced lawyer can explain the arraignment process to you and:

  • fully advise you of the applicable law
  • assist in trying to get you out of jail
  • guide you through the court process, and
  • advise you regarding charges, penalties, and any potential defenses.

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