Explosives laws updated to include IEDs
STATE HOUSE – Legislation sponsored by House Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello and Sen. Erin Lynch Prata to strengthen Rhode Island’s outdated law on bombs and other explosive devices has been signed into law
The new law closes loopholes that have hindered the filing of charges following incidents involving explosive devices, such as one in April when a pressure cooker bomb was discovered off Hopkins Hill Road in West Greenwich.
“Much has changed since our explosives law was written in 1957. Today, unfortunately, the threat comes from powerful improvised explosive devices, and law enforcement needs to be able to spring into action before a potentially lethal incident occurs. These updates are needed to protect Rhode Islanders from the threats that exist in today’s world,” said Speaker Mattiello (D-Dist. 15, Cranston).
Said Senator Lynch Prata (D-Dist. 31, Warwick, Cranston), “Rhode Island has struggled in recent years to prosecute some instances involving explosives, particularly IEDs. Our bill gives prosecutors and law enforcement the tools they need to respond to 21st century threats and prevent tragedies from occurring in our state,” said Senator Lynch Prata (D-Dist. 31, Warwick, Cranston).
The legislation (2018-H 8156A, 2018-S 2952A) updated the law to protect against improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in several ways. First, it expanded the definition of explosive devices to include any device intended to explode. Previously, the law applied only to traditional bombs and explosives, so police can’t use it to charge individuals with IEDs.
Second, the bill added possession of such devices to the law as an offense punishable by three to 20 years in prison and fines of $1,000 to $10,000. Previous law punished only those who actually place a bomb or explosive somewhere, so even if someone were caught heading somewhere with a backpack full of explosives, they could not be charged under the explosives law.
Additionally, the bill eliminated a part of the law that limited its application to devices placed “in any public or private building, or area where persons may lawfully assemble.” The language stood in the way of charges being brought for bombs placed in tents, sheds, vehicles and outdoors and other settings that might not fit that definition.
Finally, the bill allowed charges to be brought against those possessing the “readily converted” components of an explosive device. Under previous law, charges couldn’t be brought unless the device is fully assembled, so someone setting up an explosive device could escape charges any time before they’ve connected the final wire to the battery of the IED. The bill was carefully crafted to allow people to possess components for lawful purposes, since many of the components of IEDs are everyday objects such as nails and pressure cookers, as well as legal pyrotechnics and firearms items.
Before enactment of the bill, Rhode Island’s laws regarding explosives lagged those of neighboring states, such as Massachusetts, where pressure cooker IEDs were used to carry out the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013.
The legislation was supported by the Rhode Island State Police.
Cosponsors of the House bill include Rep. Antonio Giarrusso (R-Dist. 30, East Greenwich, West Greenwich), House Majority Leader K. Joseph Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick), House Deputy Speaker Charlene M. Lima (D-Dist. 14, Cranston, Providence) and House Senior Deputy Majority Leader Kenneth A. Marshall (D-Dist. 68, Bristol, Warren). The Senate bill was cosponsored by Senate President Dominick Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence) and Senate Majority Whip Maryellen Goodwin (D-Dist. 1, Providence).
For more information, contact:
Meredyth R. Whitty, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903