Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court quashed the judgment of the superior court denying Appellant’s application for postconviction relief and remanded the case for further factfinding in light of this Court’s opinion in State v. Gibson, 182 A.3d 540 (R.I. 2018), holding that Gibson controlled the legal issue in this case. In 1993, Appellant was convicted of a sexual offense. Appellant’s duty to register was governed by R.I. Gen. Laws 11-37-16, the registration statute in place at the time of that conviction. Pursuant to the holding in Gibson, however, the duration of the duty to register was controlled by the present version of section 11-37.1-4(a). Because the record on review was inadequate to enable this Court to define the correct contours of the duration of Appellant’s duty to register, the Court quashed the judgment of the superior court and remanded for further proceedings in light of Gibson. View "Atryzek v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court finding Defendant guilty of second-degree child abuse, holding that no prejudicial error occurred in the proceedings below. Specifically, the Court held (1) to the extent that certain testimony may have been improperly admitted, it was harmless; (2) the trial justice clearly articulated a basis for his fining that the injury requirement of the second-degree child abuse statute had been met, and therefore, the court need not reach the question of a lesser-included offense; and (3) the trial justice did not err by denying Defendant’s motion for a new trial. View "State v. Cahill" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court vacated in part and affirmed in part Defendant’s five criminal convictions, holding that Defendant’s convictions of two counts of sex trafficking of a minor in violation of R.I. Gen. Laws 11-67-6 must be vacated because section 11-67-6, which has since been repealed and replaced with R.I. Gen. Laws 11-67.1-3, failed to charge an offense. Defendant was convicted of two counts of sex trafficking of a minor, two counts of pandering or permitting prostitution, and one count of driving a motor vehicle with a suspended license. The Supreme Court held (1) Defendant’s convictions for sex trafficking of a minor must be vacated because the statute under which Defendant was charged under failed to charge an offense; (2) the trial justice did not err in refusing to order an amended bill of particulars on the eve of trial; and (3) the district court did not abuse its discretion in refusing to grant a mistrial when a witness disclosed that she had learned about human trafficking during a conversation with Defendant in which he discussed returning to prison. View "State v. Footman" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court granting the State’s motion for summary judgment and denying Appellant’s petition for a writ of certiorari, holding that the hearing justice did not err in granting summary judgment. In his application for postconviction relief, Appellant alleged that the indictment in his case was improperly amended, that he was improperly sentenced as a habitual offender, and that his trial attorney was ineffective. The hearing justice granted summary judgment for the State. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that there was no reversible error in the granting of summary disposition in the State’s favor. View "Ricci v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court convicting Defendant of second-degree sexual assault, holding that even if Defendant’s issue on appeal had been properly preserved for appellate review, no reversible error occurred. On appeal, Defendant argued that the trial judge erred by allowing testimony by the responding officer in which he commented on the complaining witness’s credibility. Specifically, Defendant argued that this testimony was impermissible bolstering or vouching of the witness’s credibility. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Defendant failed properly to preserve his objection for appeal because he did not provide a specific basis for the objection at trial; and (2) the admission of the testimony did not constitute prejudicial error. View "State v. Dalton" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the superior court dismissing Appellant’s application for postconviction relief, holding that Appellant was not afforded counsel in accordance with Shatney v. State, 755 A.2d 130 (R.I. 2000). After Appellant was convicted, he filed an application for postconviction relief. A justice of the superior court appointed counsel to represent him. After examining Appellant’s claims, counsel moved to withdraw from the case. The hearing justice granted the motion, concluding that Appellant’s claims lacked merit. The hearing justice then denied Appellant’s application for postconviction relief. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment below, holding that, after counsel’s motion to withdraw was granted, Appellant was not provided with a meaningful opportunity to reply to the hearing justice’s proposed dismissal of his application for postconviction relief. View "Hernandez v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the superior court denying Defendant’s motion to reduce a sentence, holding that the trial justice was within his discretion to give and confirm the punishment for Defendant. Defendant was convicted of one count of first-degree child molestation sexual assault. Defendant was originally sentenced to a forty-year term to serve but, after the case was remanded, he was sentenced to life imprisonment. Defendant filed a motion to reduce the sentence, arguing that the life sentence imposed after the second trial was unconstitutional. The trial justice denied the motion. Defendant appealed, arguing that the trial justice abused his discretion by imposing a sentence significantly longer than the sentence imposed after his first conviction. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial justice properly decided to impose the maximum sentence permitted under the statute in this case and that Defendant failed to demonstrate that the sentence was grossly disparate from other sentences generally imposed for similar offenses. View "State v. Oliveira" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court quashed the order of the superior court finding Defendant guilty of one count of second-degree murder and one count of discharging a firearm while committing a crime of violence, holding that the trial justice erred in granting Defendant’s motion for a new trial by exceeding the scope of this Court’s remand order. After Defendant was convicted, he timely appealed to the Supreme Court but ultimately moved to remand the matter to the superior court for a new trial in light of newly discovered evidence. The Supreme Court granted the motion, and on remand, the trial justice granted Defendant’s motion for a new trial on the ground set forth in his supplemental memoranda - that the trial justice’s jury instructions regarding involuntary manslaughter were improper under State v. Diaz, 46 A.3d 849 (R.I. 2012). The Supreme Court quashed the superior court’s order, holding that the trial justice did not have the authority to consider Defendant’s new-trial arguments based on Diaz, as the arguments fell outside the four corners of the original remand order. View "State v. Arciliares" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the family court requiring Defendant to register as a sex offender and denying his motion to waive sex-offender registration and notification pursuant to R.I. Gen. Laws 11-37.1-4(j), holding that there was no error in the proceedings below. On appeal, Defendant argued that the words of section 11-37.1-4(j) that “the conduct of the parties is criminal only because of the age of the victim” plainly applied to his case and that the trial justice should have exercised her discretion under section 11-37.1-4(j) to waive sexual-offender registration. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding (1) the trial justice appropriately determined that the coercion in this case made the conduct at issue criminal, apart from the ages of the victims; and (2) the trial justice appropriately applied the plain language of the statute in determining that she had no discretion in the present case. View "In re B.H." on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction of three counts of second-degree child molestation sexual assault, holding that the trial justice properly admitted testimony regarding previous restraining orders against Defendant and did not err in denying Defendant’s motion for a new trial. Specifically, the Court held (1) the “raise-or-waive” rule precluded Defendant from raising the issue of the admission of the challenged testimony, but even if Defendant had properly preserved the issue on appeal, defense counsel opened the door to the State’s inquiry on the topic during his cross-examination of the witness; and (2) the trial justice did not abuse his discretion in denying Defendant’s motion for a new trial. View "State v. Romero" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law