What Is a Felony?

Comprehending the various types of criminal offenses in Rhode Island is essential. It allows you to be aware of your rights and anticipate the possible outcomes if you are charged with a crime. This article will fill you in on what a felony is, what offenses fall under this category, possible defenses you can raise in response, and much more.

Felony Offenses in Rhode Island

Felony Offenses in Rhode Island

A felony is the most serious criminal offense you can face in Rhode Island. Many states further classify these crimes based on their severity – for example, first-degree, second-degree, and so on. 

In Rhode Island, this is not the case; all felonies are simply categorized as felonies. In terms of punishment, a felony is any crime that can lead to over one year in prison and/or a fine greater than $1,000.

Some of the most common felony charges in Rhode Island include the following:


The most serious felony charge a person can face is murder, which is broadly defined as causing the death of another person. In Rhode Island, a charge of first-degree murder carries significant potential consequences: life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. For second-degree murder convictions, you face anywhere between 10 years to life behind bars.


Robbery is another felony charge in Rhode Island. This involves the use of force or threats to unlawfully take someone else’s property directly from them. The severity of punishment depends on certain factors involved in the crime itself. 

Should you be found guilty of committing a robbery with a dangerous weapon, or if the victim sustained injuries during the incident, your punishment can vary from 10 years to life imprisonment. 

For robberies where only force or threat was used without any additional aggravating circumstances, penalties range from 5 years up to 30 years in prison.

Felony Assault

The penalties associated with felony assault charges depend largely on the circumstances surrounding the incident and the harm suffered by the victim. Committing an assault or battery with a dangerous weapon, harmful substance, or any type of fire, that results in bodily harm to another individual can lead to 6 years behind bars. 

However, if your actions caused serious bodily injury, you could spend up to 20 years in prison. 

Other Consequences of Felony Convictions 

Being convicted of a felony in Rhode Island doesn’t only involve immediate penalties such as lengthy jail terms and hefty fines. There are also other long-term consequences that many overlook, often referred to as collateral consequences. Some of the most common collateral consequences include:

Loss of Rights To Own or Possess a Firearm

Being convicted of certain felonies will lead you to lose certain rights, such as the right to possess or own firearms. Violating these gun laws will lead to further consequences, such as more prison time and substantial fines.

Difficulty Obtaining Employment and Housing 

With a felony conviction on your record, you will likely face challenges in obtaining gainful employment and securing housing. Most employers and landlords run background checks and may decide not to hire you or rent to you if they see a felony on your record.  

Immigration Consequences 

Felony convictions can have serious outcomes for non-citizens, too. They can lead to severe immigration-related penalties, including deportation or barred re-entry into the United States. 

Even lawful permanent residents (Green Card holders) aren’t immune to these potential consequences. It’s advised that non-citizen defendants seek legal advice on how their criminal case might impact their immigration status as soon as possible. 

As you can see, the repercussions of a felony conviction extend far beyond jail time and fines. They carry long-lasting consequences that can affect various aspects of your life. 

Common Legal Defenses to Felony Charges

When facing felony charges, it’s crucial to understand the available legal strategies that could be used to fight your case. Crafting a strong defense can potentially result in reduced charges or even a full acquittal. Some of the most common defenses utilized in such situations include: 

Self Defense 

This defense asserts that your actions were necessary to protect yourself from imminent danger or harm. You must be able to demonstrate that your belief of imminent harm was reasonable and that the force used to protect yourself was proportionate to the harm you were facing. 


Presenting an alibi defense means that you can provide evidence to demonstrate that you were at another location at the time of the crime and, therefore, could not have committed it. This might entail eyewitness accounts, receipts, photographs, or video footage. 

Successful use of an alibi can create enough reasonable doubt about your involvement in the crime to lead to an acquittal.

Violation of Constitutional Rights 

Asserting a violation of your constitutional rights typically means arguing that evidence against you was obtained unlawfully. For example, if the police conducted an illegal search or seizure during their investigation, any evidence obtained during the unlawful search may be ruled inadmissible following a motion to suppress. 

If essential pieces of evidence are suppressed, it could substantially weaken the prosecution’s case against you and lead either to a dismissal before trial or an acquittal.

Contact a Rhode Island Criminal Defense Attorney for a Free Case Review

Facing a felony charge can be an intimidating experience, but knowing the possible defenses available helps ease some of the anxiety around facing charges. 

Always speak with a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible if you’re facing a felony charge. Contact us today by calling (401) 854-7794 to schedule a free consultation with a Rhode Island criminal defense attorney at Manosh Payette, LLC.