Felony and Deadly Weapon Assault in Rhode Island

In Rhode Island, felony assault is any assault with a dangerous weapon or that results in serious physical injury. Additionally, Rhode Island elevates to felony assault any simple assault (an attempted or actual offensive touch) that would otherwise be a misdemeanor when committed:

  • for a particular purpose or with a specific intention
  • against certain vulnerable victims, or
  • against certain public officials or employees.

For information on misdemeanor assault, see Simple Assault in Rhode Island.

Dangerous Weapon

A dangerous weapon is one that can kill or cause serious bodily injury. Dangerous weapons include (but are not limited to) guns, knives, fire, and acid. (R.I. Gen. Laws § 11-5-2.)

Assault by a Firearm Lookalike

Rhode Island also makes it a felony to commit assault with a device manufactured to look like a firearm. Any realistic but fake firearm would suffice. (R.I. Gen. Laws § 11-5-2.1.)

Serious Bodily Injury

Serious bodily (physical) injury creates a significant risk of death, lasting loss or impairment, or permanent disfigurement. (R.I. Gen. Laws § 11-5-2.) Serious injuries include gun shot wounds, stab wounds, and severe burns.

Particular Purpose or Intention

Any assault is a felony when committed:

  • to collect a loan
  • with intent to commit murder, robbery, sexual assault, burglary, or sodomy, or
  • with intent to murder or rob, inside a house, while armed.

(R.I. Gen. Laws § § 11-5-1, 11-5-4, 11-5-6)

Vulnerable Victims

The law provides harsher penalties for assaults against certain victims. It is a felony to assault:

  • children under the care of the department of children, youth, and families, if you an employee or contractor of the department
  • persons over 60, and
  • persons with severe impairments.

(R.I. Gen. Laws § § 11-5-10, 11-5-10.1, 11-5-10.3, 11-5-10.4, 11-5-14, 11-5-14.1)

People who have severe impairments are mentally or physically disabled and unable to care for themselves, unable to provide for themselves, or substantially limited in mobility, communication, language, or learning.

(R.I. Gen. Laws § § 11-5-10.2, 11-5-11)

Public Officials and Employees

Causing bodily injury (including with mace or pepper spray) is felony assault if the victim is a public official or employee and is on duty or working. Protected persons include:

  • police officers, firefighters, and correctional officers
  • probation officers, parole officers, and state government caseworkers
  • judges and attorneys general
  • bus drivers
  • health care providers or emergency medical services providers
  • environmental management officers, or
  • school teachers and school employees.

It is also a crime to attempt to cause a correctional officer to come into contact with bodily fluids.

(R.I. Gen. Laws § § 11-5-5, 11-5-7, 11-5-8, 11-5-15, 11-5-16)

Punishment

Felony assault is punished according to the type of crime and the victim’s status, as explained below.

Assaults for particular purposes

Committing assault and battery in the course of collecting on a loan is punishable by up to five years’ imprisonment for the first offense, and three to ten years in prison for second or subsequent offenses.

Assault with intent to commit murder, robbery, sexual assault, burglary, or sodomy is punishable by one to 20 years’ imprisonment. Assault with a deadly weapon, with intent to murder or rob inside a house, is punishable by a minimum of ten years’ imprisonment.

(R.I. Gen. Laws § § 11-5-1, 11-5-4, 11-5-6)

Assault with a dangerous weapon or fake gun

If no other punishment applies, assault with a dangerous weapon is punishable by up to 20 years’ imprisonment. Assault with a device similar in appearance to a firearm is punishable by up to three years in prison, or up to ten years in prison if serious bodily injury results.

(R.I. Gen. Laws § § 11-5-2, 11-5-2.1)

Serious bodily injury

If no other law is triggered, assault that results in serious bodily injury is punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

(R.I. Gen. Laws § 11-5-2)

Vulnerable victims

Any person over the age of 18 who imposes serious bodily injury on a child under ten can be sentenced to five to 20 years’ imprisonment and a fine of $5,000 to $20,000.

Assault on a child under the care of the department of children, youth, and families by an employee or contractor of the department is punishable by three to ten years’ imprisonment and a fine of $1,000 to $10,000. If serious injury results, the assault is punishable by five to 20 years’ imprisonment and a fine of $5,000 to $20,000.

(R.I. Gen. Laws § § 11-5-14, 11-5-14.1, 11-5-14.2)

Persons over 60. Assaulting a person over the age of 60 and causing onlybodily injury is punishable by up to five years imprisonment and a fine of $1,000. If the defendant is responsible for caring for the victim, and causes mere bodily injury, the assault is punishable by up to five years imprisonment and a fine of $2,500. If the defendant is an employee of a health care facility that condoned or attempted to hide the assault, the facility can be fined up to $5,000.

If the victim sustains serious bodily injury, the sentence is three to ten years’ imprisonment, and a fine of up to $10,000. If the defendant is responsible for caring for the victim and causes serious bodily injury, the crime is punishable by two to 20 years’ imprisonment and a fine of up to $10,000. If the defendant is an employee of a health care facility that condoned or attempted to hide the assault, the facility can be fined up to $15,000.

Any time the victim is over 60 and the defendant causes serious bodily injury, the offender must also be ordered to make restitution (repayment) to the victim, perform community service hours, and attend counseling for violence or substance abuse.

(R.I. Gen. Laws § § 11-5-10, 11-5-10.3, 11-5-10.4, 11-5-11)

Persons with severe impairments. Assault on a person with severe impairments is punishable by up to five years’ imprisonment and a fine of up to $2,000. Assault with serious bodily injury on a person with severe impairments is punishable by two to ten years’ imprisonment and fine of up to $5,000, as well as mandatory restitution and community service hours.

(R.I. Gen. Laws § § 11-5-10.2, 11-5-11)

Public officials and employees

Unless a more specific law applies, assault on a public official or employee is punishable by up to three years' imprisonment and a fine of up to $1,500.

(R.I. Gen. Laws § § 11-5-5, 11-5-7, 11-5-16)

Correctional officers. An assault on a correctional officer (including an assault with bodily fluid) is punishable by up to five years’ imprisonment and a fine of $500 to $5,000. Throwing bodily fluids or otherwise causing (or attempting to cause) a correctional officer to come into contact with bodily fluids is punishable by up to two years in prison and a fine of $500 to $2,000.

(R.I. Gen. Laws § § 11-5-7, 11-5-8, 11-5-15)

Domestic violence

Rhode Island provides that where a felony assault also qualifies as domestic violence, the domestic violence penalties also apply. Domestic violence occurs between family and household members, including spouses, former spouses, people related by blood or marriage, people who live together, people who have children together, and people who have dated one another. Special penalties include mandatory participation in a batterer’s intervention program, at the defendant’s expense, and $125 fine.

(R.I. Gen. Laws § § 11-5-2, 12-29-2, 12-29-5.)

For more information, see Domestic Violence in Rhode Island.

Getting Legal Advice and Representation

Felony assault can result in serious penalties, such as imprisonment for up to 20 years and fines of up to $20,000. A number of factors will influence the outcome in your case, including the facts, the particular laws that apply, and whether the prosecutor and judge are inclined to treat your case harshly or be lenient. An experienced defense attorney will know the law and how your case is likely to be treated in court. An attorney can help you navigate the criminal justice system and assist you in preparing the strongest possible defense.

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