Under state law, municipalities can charge no more than $500 for violations of municipal ordinances that do not rise to the level of criminal offenses. Under this legislation, that number could have doubled, allowing municipalities to levy $1,000 for violations of ordinances such as disorderly conduct and panhandling. This seemingly minor change is actually quite dramatic in its consequences — it would formally turn a large number of people charged with minor misconduct into criminals. That is because, under Rhode Island law, an offense punishable by a fine of more than $500 and less than $1,000 is a misdemeanor, while one punishable by a fine of not more than $500 is considered a “violation." As a result, if a person is asked on an application form if they have a criminal record or have ever been convicted of a crime, a person who has only been found guilty of a violation can answer “no.” But if they are convicted of an offense that carries a potential fine of $1,000, they have committed a misdemeanor — a criminal offense — and would have to acknowledge that. The collateral consequences that flow from a criminal record can be enormous. As such, the ACLU of RI opposed this legislation, which died in committee.


Representative Slater


Died in Committee



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