Domestic Violence Laws in Rhode Island

by Attorney Christopher E. Heberg –

In the state of Rhode Island, a person may seek protection under domestic violence laws if they have been caused physical harm or threatened with the intent to be physically harmed, involuntary forced or coerced into a sexual relationship, cyber-stalked or repeatedly harassed by another.

The Rhode Island Family Court handles those cases that occur between the following:

  • People who are or have once been married
  • Individuals that have children together
  • Individuals that are related through marriage or by blood
  • Individuals who live together are have lived together, such as roommates

Most commonly, applicants for restraining orders complain of abuse consisting of actual physical harm, or the intent to commit physical harm against them. It is important to note that even a threat to commit physical harm can be considered domestic abuse rising to the level which would cause a Judge to grant a temporary restraining order.

In addition, stalking and harassing behavior can be considered domestic violence if it is proven that the suspect intended to cause bodily harm or inflict fear to a household member. Repeatedly calling, emailing, or attempting to contact an individual after it was made clear they want contact severed can be considered stalking and harassing and give cause for the Family Court to enter a restraining order.

It is important to remember that Judges almost always error on the side of caution in granting a protective order. Commonly, even the thinnest complaints will be granted initially. However, Defendants are given the opportunity to contest and vacate these orders at the contested hearing date which is usually within a few weeks after the granting of the initial restraining order.

If you have had a restraining order placed against you, even if you are convinced it was without merit, you must not ever contact the complainant. Contacting a person who has a restraining order against you will almost always result in a criminal charge benign filed against you. Moreover, you will have to defend against this criminal charge even if the complaining party agrees to dismiss the restraining order in the future.

If you or a loved one is a victim of domestic violence, please contact our office for consultation.