If you or a loved one has been arrested and charged with a crime immediately invoke your right to counsel, remain silent, and contact my office to obtain legal representation. I am Attorney Edward Pepe, a successful and experienced criminal attorney who has represented countless people through the Rhode Island State and Federal criminal justice system. I will be your advocate when you need it most. Absence of experienced counsel can mean the difference between a criminal conviction, incarceration, or a fair resolution of a criminal case. If you are currently charged with a crime review the information below to better understand the criminal process. Contact me at anytime to schedule a free consultation. Thank you for visiting, Attorney Pepe.
JUST THE FAQS
If I have been arrested and charged with a crime in Rhode Island what should I do? As soon as you have been arrested you must immediately invoke your right to counsel and your right to remain silent. The police are not there to help you!!! They are there to obtain evidence to prosecute your case. REMEMBER, when you are in police custody you have a State and Federal constitutional right to a lawyer and to remain silent and not respond questions by the police or other State representatives. Do not let the police tell you or trick you into believing that you need to speak to them without the advice of counsel. Also, do not speak to anyone about your case other than your lawyer because such statements could be used against you in a criminal prosecution. Too many times I have seen clients speak to the police, or others, without the assistance of a lawyer and provide incriminating evidence that should have never been given.
What will happen when I first appear in Court? Generally, the first appearance before a court involves an arraignment and the setting of bail. At the arraignment the criminal defendant will almost without exception enter a plea of not guilty and bail will be set.
Will I get released from custody and given bail after I have been arrested? Most defendant's charged with a crime in Rhode Island are released on bail. The amount and type of bail depends upon the severity of the crime charged, criminal history, ties to the community, and whether or not the person charged is a threat to the community at large and a flight risk. There are instances where the State may seek to have a defendant held without bail whenever that individual is charged with a capitol offense. A capitol offense is one where life imprisonment is a possible punishment and includes murder, robbery, burglary, rape, or arson, offenses involving the use or threat of use of a dangerous weapon by one already convicted of such an offense or already convicted of an offense punishable or imprisonment for life. Also certain drug offenses listed in the Rhode Island State Constitution constitute a capitol offense. If the crime is a misdemeanor (a crime where the punishment is less than a year) and the defendant is not a flight risk with no or very minor criminal record the defendant will be released on his or her personal recognizance. That means that no property or money has to be posted but the defendant must keep the peace and be of good behavior during the time his case is active. If the crime is more serious, a felony (a crime where the punishment is greater than one year), and/or the defendant has a substantial criminal record the judge may require that a defendant be released by posting surety bail. Surety bail requires that the defendant post 10% of the dollar amount requested by the judge (i.e. $10,000 surety bail requires $1,000.00) or property with a value equal to the amount set by the judge (e.g. $100,000 surety bail requires $100,000 worth of real property). The judge could impose cash bail which requires the defendant to post the full dollar amount requested by the judge.
What happens to my case after I am arraigned? After the arraignment is completed the defendant will be assigned another court date for a pre-trial conference where both the defense and prosecution discuss with the judge the evidence and whether or not the State will recommend dismissal of the case or a plea offer. Prior to the pre-trial conference the defendant and the State will exchange information to review all the evidence involved in the case. If the case is a misdemeanor it will be handled in the Rhode Island District Court. If the case is a felony it will be handled in the Rhode Island Superior Court. In either case all criminal matters will result either in a dismissal of the charges, a negotiated plea, or will proceed to trial before a judge or jury resulting in an acquittal or conviction.
How can I get my case dismissed? In Rhode Island State Court the prosecutor has discretion to have a defendant's case dismissed. This results when an experienced criminal attorney reviews the State's evidence and points out to the prosecutor that his client is innocent, or that the State cannot prevail at trial and it would be a waste of the State's time and resources to proceed
against the Defendant.
If my case is not dismissed what is the least restrictive sanction that can be imposed? If your case is not dismissed the next best outcome is a nolo filing or diversion. A nolo filing may occur when the Defendant has been charged with a misdemeanor and has had no or very little contact with the criminal justice system. When a case is filed it is held on record by the Courts, usually for a year, and if the Defendant has no further trouble with the criminal justice system during that year's time the case is removed from the defendant's criminal record. If the defendant has been charged with a felony, and has had no or very little contact with the criminal justice system, the State may agree to place the case in diversion. Diversion requires the Defendant to complete some type of community service, and upon successful completion the case is dismissed, resulting in no criminal record.
What does it mean to receive probation only or a suspended sentence in the State of Rhode Island? If your case cannot be resolved by a dismissal, nolo filing, or diversion, then the next least restrictive outcome is imposition of probation only. A probation only disposition is beneficial to a Defendant because Rhode Island does not consider this to be a criminal conviction. This can be important when applying for employment to represent that one has never been convicted of a crime. If, however, the defendant was to receive probation, plus a suspended sentence, where a prison term is imposed but not carried out, this is considered a criminal conviction under Rhode Island Law. When a defendant is placed on probation or given a suspended sentence it is done for a specific time period such as a year or more. During the period of probation the defendant must comply with all of its terms, otherwise the State can bring that defendant back before the Court and sentence the Defendant for a violation of probation and impose time to serve in prison up to the time period imposed on the original sentence.
How does a person charged with a crime decide to proceed to a trial? A client faced with this decision must decide whether or not he or she wants the case to be decided at a hearing before a judge or a jury of his piers. This occurs when the State and counsel for the Defendant cannot agree on a dismissal or negotiated plea. A person charged with a crime must consult with an experienced criminal attorney to decide whether it is in his or her best interest to proceed to trial. This requires a careful review of the evidence, and consideration of the possible punishment that could be imposed if convicted at trial versus the severity of the current plea offer by the prosecution.
Who has the burden to prove that I committed a crime at trial? At trial the State has the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the crime charged. The State, in order to sustain its burden and prove its case must present evidence, such as witness testimony, documents, scientific evidence, etc. The Defendant can, but is not required to present evidence to rebut the State's case, and may also present evidence to prove certain defenses of which he or she has the burden of proof. Again at this stage of the criminal proceeding an attorney is critical to effective representation of the criminal defendant. The complexities of a criminal trial should be handled by an experienced and competent criminal trial attorney. A good attorney will help that defendant obtain the best result which can include an acquittal, or even a negotiated plea favorable to the defendant during the course of the trial.
What can I do if I am convicted of a crime at trial? A person convicted by a judge or a jury at trial may appeal. In Rhode Island District Court, where misdemeanors are tried, the defendant can appeal to the Rhode Island Superior Court for a trial de novo. A de novo appeal requires the Superior Court to hear the case as though the lower District Court never ruled; its starts anew as if the defendant had never been convicted at all. If the defendant, however, is convicted of a felony in the Rhode Island Superior court he or she may file an appeal to the Rhode Island Supreme Court, but does not have a right to a trial de novo.
I have a criminal record and have completed the sentences for these crimes can I get my criminal record expunged?
Expungement is a legal process that enables persons with a criminal history to have any and all records relating to their criminal charges removed from both public records and those of law enforcement agencies. Any criminal charge can be expunged except for "crimes of violence" which include: murder, manslaughter, first degree arson, kidnapping with intent to extort, robbery, larceny from the person, first degree sexual assault, second degree sexual assault, first and second degree child molestation, assault with intent to murder, assault with intent to rob, assault with intent to commit first degree sexual assault, burglary, and entering a dwelling house with intent to commit murder, robbery, sexual assault, or larceny. In addition, only first offenders are eligible for expungment of their criminal records. A first offender is a person who has not been previously convicted of or placed on probation for a felony or a misdemeanor and against whom there is no criminal proceeding pending in any court. Anyone convicted or placed on probation on more than one occasion is ineligible for expungement. A person convicted of a misdemeanor must wait five (5) years after the successful completion (no intervening convictions, probation, or pending cases) of their sentence and/or probation to have his or her record expunged. A person convicted of a felony must wait ten (10) years after the successful completion (no intervening convictions, probation, or pending cases) of their sentence and/or probation. Finally, to qualify for an expungement the law requires the court to make a determination that the individual seeking expungement is deserving of it. To show this an individual must be able to demonstrate to the court’s satisfaction that of he or she is of good moral character; and has been rehabilitated; and the expungement of that individual's criminal record is consistent with the public interest; proof of which can include but is not limited to the following: 1) Regular employment and financial and other support of family; and 2) Successful completion of substance abuse and/or mental health counseling; and 3) Community or other public service; and 4) Professional certification or licensing in a field of employment; or 5) otherwise eligible for induction into the armed forces of the United States.
Can I have a criminal charge removed from my record if the case was dismissed? To have a dismissal of a criminal charge removed from your record you must file a Motion to Seal in the Rhode Island State Court. Sealing is available if: 1) your entire case resulted in a dismissal, a no information (no formal charge made by the State's prosecutor), or a no true bill (an criminal indictment by a grand jury); or 2) you were adjudicated not guilty on all counts and you do not have a felony conviction. For the purposes of sealing, a conviction generally consists of a sentence by a judge of a period of confinement (incarceration at the ACI or home confinement), suspended sentence, or fine. Also, a conviction occurs when a defendant pleas guilty or is found guilty after trial. Typically, the process for sealing a case is much faster and easier than expungement and it does not cost any money to seal a record.
What if l have been arrested and I am not a citizen of the United States? If you are not a citizen of the United States, and you have been charged with a crime in the State of Rhode Island retain my services prior lo the disposition of your case to ensure that you have an attorney familiar with the immigration consequences of a criminal conviction. Failure to hire an attorney familiar with the immigration consequences of a criminal conviction can result in severe consequences which may include indefinite imprisonment prior to the federal government removing or deporting you from the United States. See the immigration portion of this website.
I have been charged with a crime that requires me to appear in the Rhode Island Federal District Court. How is this different from the Rhode Island State Court system? There are essentially two systems of justice in the United States. One, involves the enforcement of the laws of each State which are enforced in the State Courts of each individual state such as Rhode Island. The second involves the laws of the United States, which are federal laws. An individual can be charged with a crime because he or she violated a federal criminal statute. If so, the United States Government will bring forth a criminal case and it will be prosecuted in a United States Federal District Court. The same Federal Constitutional Rights apply to that defendant and the process is similar to a State court criminal prosecution.