What Is a Misdemeanor?

In Rhode Island, crimes arе classified into еithеr pеtty misdemeanors, misdemeanors, or felonies based on thеir severity and thе associated pеnaltiеs. 

A misdemeanor is a crimе that carries lеss severe penalties than a felony, but more serious consequences compared to petty offenses. Even though thеy аrе lеss sеvеrе compared to felonies, thеy still carry stringent penalties that can impact your lifе significantly.

If you’re facing chargеs – no matter how minor thеy may seem – always sееk assistance from a lеgal professional. 

Penalties for Misdemeanors in Rhode Island

Under Rhode Island law, crimes categorized as misdemeanors are considered less severe than felonies but still carry significant penalties. A misdemeanor may lead to a potential sentence of imprisonment for a period of up to one year. In addition, you might be required to pay fines of up to $1,000.

Rhode Island further divides misdemeanors into petty misdemeanors based on the severity of the crime. Any charge that carries no more than 6 months in jail and maximum fines of $500 is considered a petty misdemeanor. 

Collateral Consequences

Besides the immediate legal penalties such as imprisonment and fines associated with a misdemeanor conviction in Rhode Island, there can also be far-reaching collateral consequences that could potentially impact various aspects of your life:

Employment Consequences

A misdemeanor record might make finding or keeping employment challenging. Potential employers who conduct background checks may view this negatively, affecting your chances of getting the job you want.

Housing Troubles 

Landlords often run background checks before renting property, which means housing circumstances could become complicated due to a previous misdemeanor conviction, as some landlords will be hesitant to lease their properties to those with criminal convictions.

Immigration Issues 

If you’re not a United States citizen, a misdemeanor conviction can have significant ramifications on your immigration status. Depending upon the severity and nature of your crime, it could potentially lead to deportation proceedings or affect future applications for visas, green cards, or citizenship. Crimes that affect your immigration status are typically referred to as crimes of moral turpitude.

Family and Relationships 

The impact of a misdemeanor conviction can extend to familial relationships. For example, certain crimes may affect child custody disputes or visitation rights.

Additionally, dealing with criminal charges can cause emotional stress that could potentially strain relationships with family members as well as friends who might view you differently after a conviction.

As you can see, facing a misdemeanor charge in Rhode Island can lead to consequences that extend beyond immediate legal penalties. If you find yourself dealing with this situation, it’s important to get help from an experienced criminal defense attorney who can guide you through the legal process.

Common Misdemeanors in Rhode Island

Understanding the different types of misdemeanors in Rhode Island and their potential penalties can help you understand what you’re facing if you find yourself in this situation: 

Petty Larceny 

This refers to the theft of property valued at $1,500 or less. A conviction for petty larceny in Rhode Island could result in a maximum punishment that includes up to one-year imprisonment and a fine not exceeding $500.

Driving Under the Influence (DUI)

It is illegal under Rhode Island law for anyone to drive with blood alcohol concentration levels of 0.08% or higher.

In most instances, a first-time DUI offense is considered a misdemeanor and carries up to 1 year in jail, a fine of up to $400, community service, and a driver’s license suspension lasting anywhere from 2 to 18 months.


An assault in Rhode Island occurs whеn a person either makes an attempt or threatens to

hurt another individual through violent actions, and this act causes fear of imminent

harm to thе victim. It’s not nеcеssary for physical contact to takе placе.


Battery goеs a stеp further involving actual touching or striking of another pеrson

without thеir consеnt.

Both assault and battery arе usually (but not always, depending on the facts of the case) classified as misdemeanors, carrying up to 1 year

in jail and a $1,000 fine.

If you’re facing misdemeanor charges in Rhode Island, there are a range of legal defenses that can be utilized to challenge the prosecution’s case. Some commonly used defense strategies include:


Self-defense can be raised if you were charged with a violent offense like battery and you claimed that you engaged in the typically illegal behavior because you were protecting yourself from imminent harm. You must also prove that any physical force used was in proportion to the harm you were facing. 

Constitutional Rights Violations 

If, during the course of your investigation and arrest, law enforcement violated your constitutionally guaranteed rights – for example, by carrying out an unlawful search or failing to read you your Miranda rights when performing a custodial interrogation – any evidence gathered as a result may be excluded and cannot be used against you in court. 

This strategy involves filing what’s known as a motion to suppress. If the evidence is suppressed, the evidence cannot be used against you in court, and the prosecutor may have no choice but to dismiss the charges.

False Allegations

False allegations can arise in a variety of scenarios and are, unfortunately, quite common. Those accused might be victims of mistaken identity, misunderstandings, or intentional lies. 

When you are facing false allegations, it is beneficial to establish a motive behind them. Understanding why someone might lie about you gives extra weight to your claims and can help generate doubt regarding the alleged victim’s credibility.

Several motives may be at play, including revenge/retaliation over personal or family disagreements, jealousy, or attempting to gain an upper hand in divorce or custody proceedings.


An alibi serves as an extremely strong argument against criminal allegations if you can provide proof that you were somewhere else during the time the alleged crime was committed, meaning you couldn’t possibly have committed the offense.

Gathering solid alibi evidence involves collecting information, documents, or witnesses who can confirm that you were elsewhere at the time. This might include things like phone records, credit card statements indicating your presence elsewhere, eyewitness testimony, or surveillance footage. 

Insufficient Evidence 

Another common defense for misdemeanor charges is arguing there’s insufficient evidence to convict you. The burden lies on the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt at trial that you committed every element of the crime charged.

Lack of adequate proof could arise in situations where there isn’t much physical evidence or the alleged victim’s testimony is inconsistent. If it becomes clear during proceedings that prosecutors don’t have enough evidence to prove their case, it would lead to an acquittal. 

Understanding the basics of misdemeanor charges in Rhode Island, including potential penalties and various defense strategies, can give you an idea of what to expect during the criminal defense process. 

It’s important to remember that while misdemeanors might seem minor when compared to felonies, they should never be taken lightly. If you need help with a criminal charge, don’t hesitate to contact us today to schedule a free consultation with a Providence criminal defense lawyer at Manosh Payette Criminal Defense Attorneys. Call us at (401) 854-7794.