Changes to Rhode Island's Manslaughter Laws

As reported by Katie Mulvaney in the May 31, 2012 edition of the Providence Journal, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bill to change involuntary manslaughter sentencing. Under the current law, if a person is convicted of certain crimes (first degree murder, second degree murder, involuntary manslaughter) and also convicted of discharging a firearm while committing a crime which results in death, the person must receive a mandatory life sentence on the firearms charge. The new law removes involuntary manslaughter was the list of crimes which can be punishable by multiple life sentences.

This change was proposed after a case involving an Army specialist who was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and discharging a firearm while committing a crime resulting in death. The Judge sentenced the man to twelve (12) years to serve at the ACI for the manslaughter charge. However, the Judge dismissed the firearms charge because he believed imposing a lifetime sentence would amount to cruel and unusual punishment.

Pursuant to R.I.G.L. 11-23-1, murder is defined as:

The unlawful killing of a human being with malice aforethought is murder. Every murder perpetrated by poison, lying in wait, or any other kind of willful, deliberate, malicious, and premeditated killing, or committed in the perpetration of, or attempt to perpetrate, any arson or any violation of § 11-4-2, 11-4-3, or 11-4-4, rape, any degree of sexual assault or child molestation, burglary or breaking and entering, robbery, kidnapping, or committed during the course of the perpetration, or attempted perpetration, of felony manufacture, sale, delivery, or other distribution of a controlled substance otherwise prohibited by the provisions of chapter 28 of title 21, or committed against any law enforcement officer in the performance of his or her duty or committed against an assistant attorney general or special assistant attorney general in the performance of his or her duty, or perpetrated from a premeditated design unlawfully and maliciously to effect the death of any human being other than him or her who is killed, is murder in the first degree. Any other murder is murder in the second degree. The degree of murder may be charged in the indictment or information, and the jury may find the degree of murder, whether the murder is charged in the indictment or information or not, or may find the defendant guilty of a lesser offense than that charged in the indictment or information, in accordance with the provisions of § 12-17-14.

If convicted of murder, the penalties include ten (10) years to lifetime imprisonment. Pursuant to Rhode Island General Laws 11-23-3, manslaughter is punishable by imprisonment not exceeding thirty (30) years and is a lesser included offense of murder.

If you or a family member has been charged with involuntary manslaughter, felony assault or other serious felonies, please allow Attorney Robert H. Humphrey's reputation, experience and skill to successfully guide you through the legal process. Please contact Attorney Robert H. Humphrey, Esq., at 401-816-5862 or e-mail him at

Related Posts
  • Rhode Island Identity Theft Protection Read More
  • URI Students Arrested After Super Bowl Read More
  • Northern Rhode Island Gambling Arrests Read More