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Rhode Island Public Records

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The following is for informational purposes only

What are Rhode Island Public Records, and How are They Created?

Rhode Island Public Records

The state of Rhode Island has the Access to Public Records Act (APRA) that gives the general public access to a myriad of government records. Public records are created by agencies or public bodies and the state defines this as "Agency" or "public body" shall mean any executive, legislative, judicial, regulatory, administrative body of the state, or any political subdivision thereof; including, but not limited to, any department, division, agency, commission, board, office, bureau, authority, any school, fire, or water district, or other agency or quasi-public agency of state or local government which exercises governmental functions, or any other public or private agency, person, partnership, corporation, or business entity acting on behalf of any public agency."

Many different types of public bodies such as law enforcement, the courts, the Department of Corrections, Secretary of State's Office, local and state government offices, the Attorney General's Office, and others create, store, maintain, and issue public records.

"Public record" or "public records" shall mean all documents, papers, letters, maps, books, tapes, photographs, films, sound recordings, or other material regardless of physical form or characteristics made or received pursuant to law or ordinance or in connection with the transaction of official business by any agency."

The Secretary of State's State Archives division is the government agency in charge of historical public records. Their records date back to 1638, and they boast of having more than "10 million letters, photographs, and important state documents that form a permanent, tangible record of Rhode Island's rich history."


How to Access Rhode Island Public Records?

How to Access Rhode Island Public Records

The Rhode Island ACLU has a helpful resource for the public to advise them on how to request public records. They provide the following guidelines:

"Public records can be requested in person or in writing, and the public body must within ten days do one of the following: release the records in whole or in part, deny your request, or (for "good cause") ask for an extension of up to an additional 20 business days."

Some general instructions from their website are:

  • Determine which agency you need the records from and contact them directly. Find out if there is a specific person you need to address it to.
  • Write to them detailing the information you are requesting.
  • Specify how you would like the records returned to you.
  • Pay any applicable fees.
  • Keep a copy of your request.
  • Submit your request.
  • The agency has ten days to respond.

If you are denied access, you can appeal through the Attorney General's Office.

Each agency has the legal right to charge you a fee for copies of public records.


Different Types of Public Records in Rhode Island

Rhode Island Criminal Records

The Rhode Island Judiciary has a public search portal where anyone can search for criminal records. You can also search for criminal records by visiting the courthouse in person, contacting local or state police, and by browsing the Department of Corrections website for offenders. Arrest records can also be obtained through the local police channels. Additionally, the Attorney General's Office and the Bureau of Criminal Identification (BCI) supplies the general public with criminal background checks for $5 each.

Some common types of criminal records in Rhode Island include (but are not limited to):

  • Felony and Misdemeanor Records - some common misdemeanors in Rhode Island are impersonating a law enforcement officer, public indecency, vandalism, disorderly conduct, unauthorized presence on transportation, or other minor crimes. Some popular felonies in Rhode Island include rape, murder, arson, kidnapping, and forgery.
  • RI Inmate Search - both jails and prisons keep inmate records, and those too are public records. The Rhode Island Department of Corrections has an online search tool you can use to locate criminals and their records.
  • Police Records - local police can provide copies of incident reports, police reports, sometimes mugshots, and even crime scene photos upon request.

Rhode Island Court Records

Different Types of Public Records in Rhode Island

Rhode Island has implemented The Rhode Island Judiciary Public Portal so that the general public may easily access Court records in Rhode Island. The portal serves many different court types, and you can easily search through court records that way. If you prefer, however, you can visit the courthouse in person to request court records.

Some types of court records in Rhode Island include:

  • Civil Court Records - domestic relations cases such as divorces, marriages, paternity lawsuits, custody and child support cases, estates, conservatorships, wills, civil lawsuits, and small claims lawsuits.
  • Criminal Court Records - criminal filings for misdemeanors, felonies, and other citations. These may include things like trial paperwork, sentencing, prison transfers, and evidence related to the court case.
  • Financial Court Records - bankruptcies, liens, tax issues, company stock filings, and corporate financial reports.
  • Other Court Records - such as bench warrants, arrest warrants, judgments, traffic tickets, and other traffic violations, worker's compensation cases, and name changes.

The court system in Rhode Island consists of four levels with many courts. It starts with the Supreme Court then the Superior Court, followed by the Workers' Compensation Court, District and Family Court, the finally, the Traffic Tribunal, Municipal Court, and Probate Court.

Rhode Island Arrest Records

Rhode Island arrest records may be accessed in a few ways. First, you can peruse court records to find arrest details. You can also check in with the Department of Corrections to review arrest information. Then you can contact local police who are required by law to produce arrest logs and details within 72 hours after the event. Some of the information you can expect to see is:

  • "Full name of the arrested adult;
  • Home address of the arrested adult, unless doing so would identify a crime victim;
  • Year of birth of the arrested adult;
  • Charge or charges;
  • Date of the arrest;
  • Time of the arrest;
  • Gender of the arrested adult;
  • Race of the arrested adult;
  • Name of the arresting officer unless doing so, would identify an undercover officer."

Some different types of arrests records in Rhode Island are:

  • Drug charges.
  • Murder.
  • Shoplifting.
  • Simple assault.
  • Forgery.
  • Domestic abuse.
  • Bigamy.
  • DUIs.
  • Sexual abuse.
  • Booking details like fingerprints and mugshots.
  • Arrest warrants granted by a judge.
  • Bench warrants for not appearing in court.
  • Crime scene photos.
  • Witness statements.
  • Property crimes and accompanying paperwork.
  • Vehicle records if one was used during the crime.

Rhode Island Vital Records

The State of Rhode Island Department of Health is the government agency that handles all vital records for the state. They maintain all birth, death, marriage, and civil union certificates and will provide copies upon request for a fee. They use the VitalChek service for online orders, but you can also request copies through the mail or in person. This agency also handles adoption information, health regulations, and other state programs.


Other Public Records in Rhode Island

Other Public Records in Rhode Island

Along with criminal, court, arrest, and vital records, other types of public records you can find in the state of Rhode Island include, but are not limited to:

  • Government budgets and annual reports.
  • Driving records (without personally identifiable information).
  • Home addresses.
  • Maps, books, and tapes.
  • State health and wellness statistics.
  • Air and water quality (pollution reports).
  • Property records, real estate deals, and land deeds.
  • Home phone numbers.
  • Police and accident reports.
  • Liens & tax issues.
  • Company incorporation records.
  • Demographics.
  • Library Research.
  • Personnel records for state agencies.
  • Permits, licenses, and certifications.
  • Government employee salaries.
  • * 911 time response logs.
  • Grant applications.
  • Contracts involving government agencies.
  • Settlement agreements.
  • Agency decisions.
  • Name, title, and salary of public employees and officials.

What Information is Not Public Record in Rhode Island?

The state of Rhode Island has twenty-seven exceptions to the public records law. Some of the things that are now allowed to be given out to the public are:

  • "Personnel or other personally-identifiable records, such as student or medical records, if they are confidential under federal or state law, or where the release of the document would constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy;
  • Trade secrets;
  • Juvenile court records, child custody and adoption records, records sealed by the court, or other records not open to discovery;
  • Police records that could be reasonably expected to interfere with investigations or enforcement proceedings, would deprive a person of a right to a fair trial, could constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy, could disclose the identity of a confidential source, would disclose guidelines or procedures for investigations and prosecutions, or would endanger the life or safety of any individual;
  • Military, law enforcement, or technological secrets the disclosure of which would endanger public welfare and security;
  • Labor negotiation, collective bargaining or public fund strategy reports;
  • Working papers and preliminary drafts of public body documents;
  • Tax returns;
  • Correspondence of or to elected officials in their official capacity."

In some cases, the records will be available, but some information may be redacted (blacked out) to protect citizens' personal information.