Juvenile Indigent Defense Delivery System
- Rhode Island has a statewide public defender system that provides juveniles accused of delinquency with trial and appellate representation. R.I. Gen. Laws § 14-1-58. The system is entirely funded by the state. American Bar Association, State & County Expenditures for Indigent Defense Services in Fiscal Year 2002, 2003.
Determination of Indigence
- An indigent is a person with insufficient income or assets to afford counsel in addition to necessary expenses for food, shelter, and health care and, relevant to juveniles, “nor is there any one to whom he or she is entitled to look for support who has that income or assets.” R.I. Gen. Laws § 12-15-8.
- Applicants for public defense services must submit an affidavit of financial status. The public defender office, on its own initiative or at the court’s request, may require additional information or conduct an investigation. The public defender makes the determination of eligibility. R.I. Gen. Laws § 12-15-9
Juvenile Court Rules
- Click here for Rhode Island Rules of Juvenile Procedure.
Ages of Juvenile Court Jurisdiction
- The youngest age at which a juvenile can be adjudicated delinquent is not specified by any statute.
- A person who commits a crime after attaining the age of 18 will no longer be under the jurisdiction of the Juvenile Court. R.I. Gen. Laws § 14-1-3.
Right to Counsel Provision
- The public defender shall appear on behalf of an accused delinquent child who is financially unable to afford counsel. R.I. Gen. Laws § 14-1-58. The child and the parents must be notified in writing that the child has a right to the assistance of counsel at the proceedings and that, if the family is indigent counsel shall be appointed for the child. Morris v. D’Amario, 416 A.2d 137, 141 (R.I. 1980).
Waiver of Counsel Provision
- No specific juvenile waiver of counsel statute, but juvenile case law indicates: Waiver of counsel by juveniles unable to afford counsel should not routinely be allowed. In re John D., 479 A.2d 1173, 1178 (R.I. 1984).
- In general, the validity of a juvenile’s waiver of rights is assessed based on the totality of the circumstances. In re Kean, 520 A.2d 1271 (R.I. 1987).
- Adult case law indicates that waiver of counsel can occur if it is knowing, voluntary and intelligent. State v. Chabot, 682 A.2d 1377 (R.I. 1996).
- No conditions exist that prevent a minor from waiving his/her right to counsel.
Transfer to Adult Court
- Click here for the National Center for Juvenile Justice’s summary of this state’s transfer provisions.
- Code Section and Rules of Court: R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 14-1-2, 14-1-20 to -22, 14-1-25, 14-1-26.1, 14-1-31; R.I. R. Juv. P. 8.
- Detention Hearing: within 24 hours of detention or the next court date a child shall be referred to the Family Court.
- Appointed Counsel at Detention Hearing: Yes. At hearing the court shall provide for child to consult with Public Defender or other attorney. R.I. R. Juv. P. 8.
Disproportionate Minority Confinement
- Click here for the Burns Institute’s summary of DMC information regarding this state.
Life Without Parole
- There are 2 youths serving life without parole sentences in the state of Rhode Island.
- Rhode Island has 3.69 per 100,000 14-17 year olds serving life without parole sentences ranking it 30th out of the 40 states covered in the Amnesty International USA report The Rest of Their Lives: Life Without Parole for Child Offenders in the United States (2005).
- There is No minimum age for prosecution as an adult in Rhode Island.
- There is No minimum age for sentencing a youth to life without parole in Rhode Island.
- Rhode Island has mandatory life without parole sentencing.
Important Rhode Island Resources
- Rhode Island Court Data Archive
- Juvenile Code
- RI Courts
- Rhode Island Office of Public Defender
- The Rhode Island Office of the Child Advocate
- The Rhode Island Training School
- Highly structured, secure residential facility for youth
- Rhode Island Kids Count — Providence, RI
- Statewide children’s policy organization dedicated to improving the health, education, economic well-being and safety of Rhode Island’s children.