Senate passes Acosta’s bill to redefine felonies, misdemeanors and petty misdemeanors


            STATE HOUSE – Legislation sponsored by Sen. Jonathon Acosta (D-Dist. 16, Central Falls, Pawtucket) to revise the state’s definitions of felonies, misdemeanors and petty misdemeanors has been approved by the Senate.

           The proposal (2023-S 0685) mirrors a bill the Senate approved during the 2021 and 2022 sessions. It is the latest step in an ongoing effort to reform the state’s criminal justice system through a “justice reinvestment” approach, which is focused on easing pressures on the correctional system and promoting diversion and rehabilitation while increasing public safety.

            “As we continue to recognize the injustices enshrined throughout our judicial system that have had detrimental impacts on predominantly residents of color or limited socio-economic status, this bill will help correct the inequities that have troubled too many Rhode Islanders for too long.  Updating these outdated definitions will help alleviate persistent judicial injustices while also saving the taxpayers money and easing pressures on the correctional system.  Most importantly though, this bill will have a meaningful and beneficial impact on the lives of individuals who have made mistakes, but who are also sincere and genuine about being productive members of our society,” said Senator Acosta.

            The bill would redefine a felony as “any criminal offense which at any given time may be punished by imprisonment for a term of more than one year.” A misdemeanor would be defined as “any criminal offense which may be punishable by imprisonment for a term of more than six months and not exceeding 364 days, or solely by a fine of more than $1,000.” A petty misdemeanor would be “any criminal offense which may be punishable by imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or solely by a fine of more than $500, or both, and not more than $1,000.”

            The legislation now heads to the House for consideration where Rep. Leonela Felix (D-Dist. 61, Pawtucket) has introduced the bill (2023-H 5361).


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