The Attorney General of the State of Rhode Island is charged with the responsibility of prosecuting all felony criminal offenses occurring in the State of Rhode Island, all misdemeanor criminal cases brought by State law enforcement agencies, and all misdemeanor cases appealed to the Superior Court.
The Criminal Division is comprised of 149.1 staff members, consisting of prosecutors, paralegals, secretaries, victim advocates, investigators and financial auditors. These individuals work together to assist the Attorney General in fulfilling his Constitutional obligations. Cases are prosecuted by attorneys assigned to the general criminal trial calendar and through specialized units focusing on white-collar crime, narcotics and organized crime, gangs, firearms offenses, juvenile offenders, domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse, Medicaid fraud, elder abuse and traffic safety.
The Criminal Division works closely with local law enforcement, assigning Superior Court prosecutors to act as liaisons to each of the forty-four law enforcement agencies in the State in order to provide legal assistance, and with our federal partners making joint decisions on which office should assert jurisdiction where both state and federal charges are viable.
Prosecutors are available to law enforcement 24 hours a day, seven days a week to assist in serious matters or complex investigations. During the weekends and holidays, prosecutors rotate coverage to handle the presentation of violations of probation and bail.
The volume of cases handled by the prosecutors in the criminal division is staggering. In 2012, the Providence Intake Unit reviewed a total of 4,722 packages, ensuring there was sufficient evidence to go forward in the Superior Court. The screening prosecutor reviewed 4,449 packages for information charging and in grand jury; prosecutors reviewed 273 packages for presentment to the Providence County grand jury. The county offices also screened over 1,200 felony packages for charging (485 in Kent, 443 in Washington and 284 in Newport County). Statewide, the Division proceeded to file Criminal Informations and Indictments with the Superior Courts in 5,012 felony cases. Prosecutors handled 95 new applications for Post Conviction Relief with decisions being reached in 344 pending matters. It is important to note that the courts dismissed hundreds of cases in January of 2012 where no action had been taken in over five years. The Division has continued to have one prosecutor who is assigned to the Appellate Unit designated to handle post conviction matters, freeing up valuable resource time for trial prosecutors to concentrate on their criminal cases.
Division prosecutors disposed of 4,831 felonies and 239 misdemeanors at the pretrial conference stage of the case. In total, there were 4,425 cases disposed by these plea negotiations, accounting for 87% of the disposed cases handled throughout the State. In 2012, Division prosecutors, with the assistance of the White Collar Crime Unit, brought hundreds of financial crimes cases to disposition, with Court ordered restitution totaling approximately $9.1 million dollars. As of August of this year, over $213,000 was paid up front to the victims at the time of disposition, with the remaining schedule of payments to be determined by the courts.
The year was an exciting year for the Criminal Division in terms of technology with the implementation of the Department’s Case Management System (CMS). Funded in part with federal stimulus money, the system was designed and developed to allow for the more efficient management of cases, allowing administrators to track the caseloads of prosecutors, the length of pending cases, the turnover of prosecutor cases, disposition and dismissal rates, and to allow management to run reports with ease. The CMS also allows for the digital replication of criminal files, promoting more efficient record keeping, online access to files for permitted users, and a backup file system. Furthermore, the system enables prosecutors to easily cross reference defendants in criminal cases, witnesses in criminal cases and track gang activity.