Who is Protected?

Under Rhode Island domestic violence law, domestic violence is a crime committed by one family or household member against another.

Under the law, a family or household member includes:

  • Spouses
  • Former spouses
  • Adults related by blood (family members) or marriage (in-laws)
  • Adults who are living or have lived together in the past three years
  • People who are or have been engaged within the past six months
  • People who are or have been in a substantive dating relationship within the past year1
  • People who have a child in common, regardless of whether they have been married or have lived together

Factors the court considers in determining whether a relationship is substantive are: 1) the length of time of the relationship, 2) the type of relationship, and 3) the frequence of the interaction.

What is Covered?

Under Rhode Island's Domestic Violence Prevention Act, domestic violence includes, but is not limited to, the following crimes:

  • Simple assault
  • Felony assault
  • Vandalism
  • Disorderly conduct
  • Trespassing
  • Kidnapping
  • Child-snatching
  • Sexual assault
  • Homicide
  • Violation of the provisions of a protective order
  • Stalking
  • Refusal to relinquish or to damage or to obstruct a telephone
  • Burglary and Unlawful Entry
  • Arson
  • Cyberstalking and cyberharassment
  • Domestic assault by strangulation
  • Electronic tracking of motor vehicles

NOTE: The above are examples of domestic violence crimes. However, any criminal offense qualifies as domestic violence if the relationship is one covered by the Domestic Violence Prevention Act.

Why Was the Act Passed?

The state legislature passed Rhode Island's domestic violence law because existing criminal laws were not being enforced against batterers.1

As the law states in part:

  • Previous societal attitudes reflected in policies and practices of law enforcement agencies, prosecutors, and courts ... have resulted in differing treatment of crimes occurring between family or household members and of the same crimes occurring between strangers.

  • It is the intent of the legislature that the official response to cases of domestic violence ... shall communicate the attitude that violent behavior is not excused or tolerated.

Rhode Island General Laws 12-29-1 et al.