- The state allows certain first-time offenders to continue working or attending school while serving their sentence at a minimum-security facility.
Art. 1, § 8. Bail, fines and punishments: Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel punishments inflicted; and all punishments ought to be proportioned to the offense.
First-time offenders: Judges may sentence certain first-time offenders to terms in minimum-security, overnight facilities and allow them to continue reporting to work or school during business hours. R.I. Gen. Laws § 12-19-2(b). Corrections officials may charge these first-time prisoners for their stays. R.I. Gen. Laws § 12-19-2(e).
Habitual offenders: The state mandates sentencing enhancements of up to 25 additional years in prison for offenders upon their third felony conviction. R.I. Gen. Laws § 12-19-21.
Sentencing guidelines: Each year the justices of the superior court (with approval of the justices of the state’s supreme court) adopt a schedule of presumptive sentences for each type of felony that constituted more than 5% of the criminal caseload in the superior court during the preceding year. R.I. Gen. Laws § 12-19.3-2. Trial judges may stray from the presumptive range when they find “substantial and compelling circumstances” which justify an alternative sentence. R.I. Gen. Laws § 12-19.3-3. The aggrieved party has 20 days to appeal a sentence that departs upwardly (the defendant) or downwardly (the state) from the presumptive range. R.I. Gen. Laws § 12-19.3-4.
The state supreme court will uphold a postconviction relief decision absent clear error or a determination that the hearing justice misconceived or overlooked material evidence. Rodrigues v. State, 985 A.2d 311 (R.I. 2009).
The penalty enhancements under the state’s habitual offender statute are mandatory, and a trial judge commits reversible error if he or she refuses to impose an additional sentence on a defendant found to be a habitual offender. State v. Chielli, 762 A.2d 450 (R.I. 2000).
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The proportionality principles embodied in the state constitution are “identical” to those of the federal constitution. State v. Monteiro, 924 A.2d 784, 795 (R.I. 2007). The court will overturn a sentence when it is unduly harsh when compared to the crime. McKinney v. State, 843 A.2d 463, 470 (R.I. 2004). The court will conduct a comparative analysis of sentences for similar convictions only if it first finds that the sentence is unduly harsh when compared to the crime. McKinney, 843 A.2d at 470.
Court upheld a five-year assault sentence, with a 25-year enhancement pursuant to R.I. Gen. Laws § 12-19-21, against a prisoner who threw urine and feces at a correctional officer. The offender was sentenced to a total of seven years worth of additional time, with 23 years of probation. State v. Lyons, 924 A.2d 756 (R.I. 2007).
Court upheld 20-year sentence for second-degree child molestation and simple assault; sentence was “far in excess” of those generally imposed for second-degree child molestation convictions, according to a statistical analysis provided during the postconviction relief hearing. Alessio v. State, 924 A.2d 751, 755 (R.I. 2007).
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Court reinstated plea-bargained sentence of 60 years (defendant to serve 40) stemming from an armed robbery during which the defendant fired shots at a security guard and police officer. McKinney, 843 A.2d at 465.
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