Both first degree robbery and first degree sexual assault are capital offenses. Capital offenses includes offenses which are punishable by life imprisonment. Rhode Island no longer has the death penalty, so life imprisonment is the most severe penalty which may be imposed in criminal cases.
Pursuant to Rhode Island General Laws 12-12-1.1, an offense which may be punished by death shall be prosecuted by indictment. An offense which may be punished by a term of life imprisonment shall be prosecuted by indictment unless the defendant, with the consent of the attorney general and leave of the court, waives indictment, in which event it may be prosecuted by information. If the defendant does not waive indictment, then the Department of Attorney General must present evidence to a grand jury. The grand jury must then decide to indict the person, known as “true bill” or decline to indict the person, known as “no true bill.”