Criminal Procedure

Cases Dropped for 115 R.I. Teens; No Probable Cause Hearings

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A new—and short-lived—state law in Rhode Island that put 17-year-olds in adult court was constitutional, a judge says.

But because teens didn’t get probable cause hearings before being “referred” to superior court from family court under the legislation, Superior Court Judge Daniel Procaccini dismissed felony charges against 115 teens whose cases were sent to adult court before the state legislature changed its mind and repealed the law, reports the Providence Journal. They apparently represented almost all of the 17-year-olds charged with felonies during the 130 days that the new law was in effect.

Procaccini held in abeyance, however, the case of a 17-year-old, Ryan Greenberg, who was charged with second-degree murder in a boating accident, as well as three other indictments pending family court hearings on whether they should be sent to superior court.

“The Greenberg indictment, which is the product of a lengthy grand jury proceeding consisting of approximately 20 witnesses and 30 exhibits, unquestionably illustrates the drastic consequences and inherent unfairness that would result from a dismissal,” the judge explains in a written opinion.

Hat tip to the Criminal Justice Journalists’ News Center.

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