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I am a criminal defense lawyer practicing in Rhode Island.  I handle all types of criminal cases, including, DUI, domestic violence cases, drug case, sex cases just to name a view. 

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Attorney Michael Zarrella Announces Trial Victory on Felony Assault Charges

Attorney Michael Zarrella announces his most recent trial victory.   Attorney Michael Zarrella secured a not guilty verdict on behalf of a client facing Felony Assault charges.  The trial commenced in Providence Superior Court on May 3, 2016 and was completed on May 5, 2016.  After deliberating for 50 minutes, the jury came down with a verdict of NOT GUILTY on all charges. 

The facts of the case were front page news.  The news reported that a woman sustained facial injuries inside the women’s bathroom at Skarr Hookah Lounge Bar.  The reported allegation was that the complaining witness told police she was assaulted by the defendant. The complaining witness stated she was pushed into the bathroom by the defendant who hit her in the face multiple times and knocked out some of her teeth.


http://wpri.com/2014/08/02/woman-assaulted-in-federal-hill-lounge/

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

New proposed Rhode Island’s drunk driving law.

  

  The Rhode Island General Assembly has recently introduced legislation on behalf of the Attorney General to toughen Rhode Island’s drunk driving laws.  The new legislation, if enacted, would give Rhode Island the distinction of having some of the toughest penalties in the nation for driving under the influence, death resulting.

    The proposed legislation would increase the maximum penalty for a conviction of driving under the influence death resulting from 15 to 30 years in prison with fines of up to $20,000 and license revocation for as long as 10 years.  The legislation would also increase penalties for anyone convicted of driving under the influence, serious bodily injury resulting from 10 years to 20 years, increase fines from $1,000 to $10,000 and increase license revocation from 3 to 5 years.  Another bill filed on behalf of the Attorney General would create a new crime, that of driving under the influence, injury resulting.  Injury under this legislation would include all injuries not meeting the standard of “serious bodily injury”.   Finally, a bill has been proposed to increase from 5 years to 10 years the “look-back” period on repeat alcohol-related offenses.  

    The sad reality however is that tougher punishments and stricter penalties for drunk driving death resulting cases have nothing to do with preventing DUIs.  Almost every drunk driver that kills someone, never thought they would cause a death resulting accident, if they did they would most likely not be driving in the first place.  Therefore, people will continue to drive.  If the state would like to prevent drunk driving death cases, they must make stricter penalties for all drunk driving cases, not only the ones that cause death.

    Clearly, it is unacceptable for there to be any fatality or injury resulting from drink driver.  However, the legislature should not be mislead to believe that increasing the punitive laws and penalties for only injury and death cases will have a significant effect on ending these injuries or deaths.  Rather, the legislature should focus on more comprehensive approaches to the problem of drunk driving which include education and alcohol treatment in addition to enforcement of harsh penalties for all drunk drivers.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

United States Supreme Court to review if a refusal to take a breath or blood test can constitutes a crime under the constitution.

Questioning the Constitutionality of Treating a DUI Refusal as a Crime


I often wonder how it could be considered a crime to refuse to take a breath test.  Under Rhode Island law, if a person refuses a breath or blood test twice in a matter of 5 years it is considered a crime.  This legislation seems to contradict the 5th amendment to the United States constitution as well as the Article 13 of the Rhode Island constitution.  

The Fifth Amendment protects criminal defendants from having to give statements if said statement may incriminate themselves. This ability to remain silent is a bedrock principle that the Framers of the Constitution believed in when they penned the Fifth Amendment.  Furthermore, the Rhode Island Constitution, Under Article 1, Section 13,  in its declaration of rights section also protects a person from giving self incriminating evidence.  

“Section 13. Self-crimination. -- No person in a court of common law shall be compelled to give self-criminating evidence.”  

Clearly,  the Rhode island Constitution in addition to the US Constitution protect the rights of defendants from giving self-criminating evidence.  

So why is it in Rhode Island that a person is told they have a right to remain silent but if they do they can be charged with a crime?  The Rhode Island state legislature as well as the court has turned it’s back on the principle that one has a right to remain silent under the Federal constitution as well as a right not to give self-incriminating evidence under the State constitution.  The law as it stands now, stands for the proposition that if you do not help the State gain evidence against you in a DUI investigation,  then you have committed a crime.  This likely was not the intent of the framers.  We all know DUI’s are dangerous, and that they need to be stopped, but at what expense?  The State can still prove a DUI case without a breath reading. Is it necessary to rip up the State and Federal Constitution to help the law enforcement? Is the next step to say if you don’t let the police search your house you can be charged with a crime, or if you do not give a statement in a criminal drug case you can be charged as well?  

Thirteen states, including Rhode Island  make it a crime to refuse blood alcohol tests. The United States Supreme Court agreed Friday to hear cases coming from  two of those states. Specifically, the US Supreme Court will hear cases from Minnesota and North Dakota in which the Court will decide if a defendant's refusal to take breath tests can be the basis for a criminal charge.

The court has previously ruled that blood tests are searches and that a warrant in many cases will be usually needed in order to obtain the blood test. The whole intent of the of the refusal law is to establish a civil penalty to convince the defendant to take a breath test.  It is my belief that the 13 states that have made it a crime to refuse blood alcohol tests a crime have gone too far in making the act of not incriminating one’s self a crime.

Monday, November 23, 2015

NEW UPDATE FOR DUI WEBSITE

Attorney Michael Zarrella is pleased to announce the most recent update for his DUI website is now available for viewing.  The update includes the most recent DUI news and laws.  The Rhode Island DUI laws have changed dramatically over the past few years. The new update includes, but is not limited to, the new DUI law regarding the interlock system for DUIs as well as refusals.  This update’s goal is to help people understand the DUI and refusal law,  as well as giving the legal community a reference for DUI defenses.  If you are in the need for a DUI lawyer visit my website at www.ridrunkdrivingattorney.com or call me at 401-523-5271

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Winning a DUI case even with a failed breathtest

    Most people think that if you failed a breath test you can never beat a DUI charge.  This is simply not true.  Numerous defenses in DUI cases have always been there, but now more than ever,  a failed breath test may not lead to a DUI conviction.  The new law on DUI and refusals allowed the judges and magistrates in the traffic court to lower a person’s suspension on a refusal to 30 days, as long as the drivers have an ignition interlock system installed in their car.  This law was added so that drivers would not have to lose their license for the mandatory 6 months to 1 year, which in turn would often cause the drivers to lose their jobs in addition to their livelihood.  In return, the State would benefit by not allowing people that have been drinking to start their cars, through the requirement of the installation of an ignition interlock device in their car for a period of up to 2 years.  
    The requirement of the installation of the device, was supposed to be helpful to everyone because drivers that refused a test could keep their jobs and the citizens of Rhode Island would be safer because drunk drivers would not be able to start their cars and drive even if they just had one or two drinks.  
    However, a defective form called “Rights for Use at Station” was submitted to all the Rhode Island police departments from the Rhode Island Attorney General’s Office.  As a result, a real legal question has arisen as to whether all DUI breath test cases are valid and whether their results are now in jeopardy of being excluded from the evidence.  The problem arises in that the “Rights for Use at Station” form is misleading in that it tells drivers that if they do not take the breath test their license will be suspended for a period of  6 months to 1 year.  This is no longer true.  The new law CLEARLY allows a defendant the possibility of getting his or her  license back as soon as 30 days provided that they get an ignition interlock system installed.  In addition, the defendant could also get what is called a “works license” even during the license suspension.  Because this form does not provide the defendant accurate information with respect to their legal rights, the defendant may have been misguided in taking a breath test because they feared the inaccurate penalties of refusing a breathalyzer test which were contained on the form.  Due to this inaccuracy, an argument can be made that the breath test against the defendant was misinformed therefore cannot be used against them.  If the breath test results are suppressed in a DUI case, the State will have a very difficult time in proving a DUI.  This problem with the form  has lead to numerous city and town solicitors reducing DUI’s to lesser charges.   If you have been arrested for a DUI, you need to call a Rhode Island DUI lawyer immediately. 

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Rhode Island Domestic Violence Update

     The Rhode Island General Assembly and the law enforcement community in Rhode Island is consistently working to increase the penalties for domestic violence convictions.  They have also worked to revise classifications of certain crimes from misdemeanors to felonies.  As a result, on individual charged with a domestic violence crime in Rhode Island must take the charge very seriously and hire an experienced domestic violence attorney who will work to have the charges reduced or dismissed to avoid conviction and the harsh penalties associated with a domestic violence conviction.
     In 2012, the Rhode Island General Assembly revised the domestic violence law by classifying the crime of strangulation as a felony.  Prior to this legislation, strangulation was treated as a misdemeanor simple assault with a penalty of up to 1 year in prison.  Under the new classification as a felony, a conviction of domestic violence strangulation could result in up to 10 years in prison.
     Strangulation within a domestic relationship is defined in the statute R.I.G.L. Section 11-5-2.3 as "knowingly and intentionally impeding normal breathing or circulation of the blood by applying pressure on the throat or neck or by blocking the nose or mouth of another person, with the intent to cause that person harm."  The individual accused of strangulation will be prosecuted for the crime of domestic violence strangulation if they are in a domestic relationship and as long as it can be proven that there was "intent to cause that person harm."  It does not need to be proven that the individual intended to kill the person.
     As with any newly enacted law, law enforcement is very aggressive in charging individuals under the new statute whether or not the crime can truly be classified as domestic strangulation as opposed to charging and individual with simple assault.  As a result, an individual could be facing up to 10 years in jail as a result of the felony charge as opposed to up to 1 year in jail for a misdemeanor assault.  Additionally, the charge of a felony applies to an individual without any prior convictions. Consequently, it is critical to have an experienced domestic violence attorney analyze the facts of your case to determine if law enforcement correctly charged the crime as domestic strangulation rather than a simple misdemeanor assault.  Any conviction under the domestic violence prevention act requires the implementation of a no contact order and domestic violence counseling.
      This new law has been criticized by many in the legal profession as being overly broad in it's scope and allowing for law enforcement to abuse its discretion by erroneously charging individuals with a domestic strangulation crime rather than a simple assault. An experienced domestic violence strangulation defense attorney is familiar with the facts needed to support a charge of strangulation and will defend an individual wrongly charged with strangulation and will seek to have the charge reduced.  This defense will make the difference in a person facing up to 1 year in jail or facing up to 10 years in jail with a felony conviction on their record.
      Furthermore, under the Domestic Violence Prevention Act each conviction for a domestic violence offense increases the punishment imposed by the Court.  For instance, a second misdemeanor domestic violence violation shall require imprisonment for a period of not less than 10 days and not more than 1 year.  A third and subsequent domestic violence violation is considered a felony and imprisonment of not less than one year and not more than 10 years will be imposed.  Consequently, each domestic violence charge must be defended by an experienced criminal defense attorney who must work toward a dismissal of the charge, reduction of the charge or a disposition that will not constitute a criminal conviction.  I have the experience to work for you to reduce your domestic violence charge or have it dismissed.
     I have been defending individuals charged with crimes such as domestic violence in Rhode Island in addition to all other crimes for over 20 years.  I have successfully and tirelessly worked to have charges reduced or dismissed. Don't take chances with your future and your freedom!  Hire an experienced domestic violence defense attorney to review your domestic violence case and begin to work on your defense.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Rhode Island DUI, Refusals and Ignition Interlock Devices

   

 Rhode Island DUI Ignition Interlock Devices

    With the hopes of preventing the loss of lives due to drunk driving, the Rhode Island General Assembly enacted a law authorizing the courts to prevent individuals found guilty of driving under the influence from driving vehicles that do not have an installed ignition interlock system.  This blog will explain more fully what an ignition interlock device is and the requirements associated with the device.
     An ignition interlock device (IID) is a device that is directly wired into the ignition inside of a vehicle and requires the driver of the vehicle to breath into the device prior to starting the vehicle.   This system will detect alcohol on a person's breath.  If the concentration of alcohol on a driver's breath is above the programmed limit of the device, the engine of the vehicle will not start.  As an individual drives the car, the device will periodically require breath samples to make sure there is not alcohol in the individual's system.
     If an individual has been adjudicated of driving under the influence and prohibited from operating a vehicle without an ignition interlock device, the individual must contact a company which has been certified by the State of Rhode Island to install, lease and sell the systems.  Currently, there are 4 companies certified by the State and are listed on the Rhode Island Division of Motor Vehicle's website.  These companies have been certified by the state because they have met strict government safety requirements.  All costs associated with the installation and monitoring of the system in addition to a court administrative fee will be required to be paid by the adjudicated individual.
     If the Court has ordered the use of an ignition interlock system, a notation is made on the person's driving record which will specify the period of use of the ignition system.   The Court will also require proof of the installation of the system and periodic reporting in order to verify the proper operation of the system.  The Court will also require the system to be monitored for proper use and accuracy by one of the certified companies at least every six months or more frequently as required.

Penalties for violation of Rhode Island DUI interlock law or DUI hardship license

     The Court will impose penalties on a person who violates the court order requiring the use of the system, who has altered or tampered with the system, has operated a vehicle not equipped with the required system or has asked another person to start the equipped vehicle for them.  Violation of the court order may result in a charge of a misdemeanor punishable by up to 1 year in prison and/or a fine of up to $1000. 
  However, the violation of the use of a hardship license may be in question because under the current interlock law any individual who violates the use of their hardship license shall be subject to the penalties enumerated in Section 31-27.18.1.  The only problem is that under Rhode Island law there is no Section 31-27.18.1.  This creates a problem, in that, if a person is driving on their hardship license at the wrong times or the wrong places there may be no way of punishing them. 
    If you or a loved one has been charged with a DUI or Refusal, please contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer who is familiar with this newly enacted law and all of the other laws pertaining to your case.  I have been practicing criminal law for over 20 years and have vast experience with drunk driving defense.  Please call me today to discuss your case and to begin working on your defense.
      For more information please review my websites at www.rhodeislanddefenselawyer.com or  www.ridrunkdrivingattorney.com.