Understanding Probation and Probation Violations in Rhode Island

A convicted person in Rhode Island may find themselves on probation in one of two ways: 1) as part of a suspended sentence; or, 2) under straight probation. In either case, the person convicted is not required to serve prison time. Probation may be either supervised or non-supervised. Supervised probation requires frequent reporting to a probation officer who will keep tabs on your life and work status and/or whether you are complying with court ordered rehab, if applicable.

Probation as Part of a Suspended Sentence

If given a suspended sentence, the judge will impose a length of time to be served, but order that the imprisonment is waived while the defendant is on probation. The suspended sentence might also require some time to be served in jail followed by a period of probation. If the probation is completed successfully, meaning that you have not violated probation (more below) then the sentence is completed. If probation is violated the defendant can be forced to serve the remainder of the suspended sentence.

Straight Probation

Straight probation is more common for lesser crimes and misdemeanors than it is for felonies. Straight probation works essentially the same as it does under a suspended sentence, but in this case there is no underlying amount of time to be served. If a person violates a straight probation agreement, he or she will not be jailed to serve the remainder of a suspended sentence. Instead, a violator of straight probation, will be jailed for an amount of time determined at a violation hearing. A violator may be forced to serve the maximum sentence for the crime committed.

Violation of Probation

When someone is placed on probation (regardless of form) they are told to “keep the peace” and be of good behavior. Unfortunately, and this is an area of much contention, a person does not need to commit another crime to be found as a violator of probation. Merely failing to keep the peace is enough to be considered a violator of probation and placed back in jail. The violation becomes a second separate charge in addition to any charges that may arise from the incident in which the Attorney General believes the defendant violated the terms of probation.

Your criminal defense attorney will represent you at a probation violation hearing which is held in front of a Judge. Both sides will have an opportunity to address whether you have kept your terms of probation. Again, “keep the peace” and “good behavior” are vague and it does not take much evidence for a Judge to determine that a persons actions were not “good behavior.”

Because the Judge believes that you have already violated your probation, he or she is VERY unlikely to allow bail. Therefore, these are very serious charges because it requires jail time pending the resolution of the underlying charges.


My office has extensive experience in dealing with criminal cases and probation violations. I will aggressively defend the underlying charges and represent you at a violation hearing to help get you out of prison quickly. If you, or a loved one, has been charged with a probation violation, contact my office immediately for a free consultation.