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Rhode Island Public Records

The Rhode Island Access to Public Records Act or APRA was written to inform and involve citizens in decisions that will affect them in the state and to add accountability to elected officials. The act provides the public access to public records. The APRA covers every public body and all branches of government except the judicial branch. The judicial branch only has to disclose administrative records.

What does the Rhode Island public records law say?

The APRA does have specific steps to follow when you request a record. You do not have to be a citizen, which is a plus for you if you live out of state. The ARPA states that you should have a response to your request in 10 business days. They can extend the time to 30 days. Any denial of records must come in writing. 

The state of Rhode Island does have a specific fee schedule they follow with $ 0.15 per photocopied page and $15.00 an hour in labor fees for searching, redacting, and photocopying your requested documents. You can appeal to the courts if your request is denied, but it is recommended to file a claim with the state’s Attorney General before you appeal. 

Rhode Island does have 25 exemptions and 16 statutory exemptions. A majority of the exemptions cover records that would lead to an invasion of privacy. Medical records and information will not be disclosed. Law enforcement investigations and procedures, tax returns, trade secrets, financial accounts, some real estate records, and school tests are all exempt. Adoptions and child custody records are not allowed to be disclosed. The communication records between government officials and their constituents are exempt. 

To learn more, visit RI.gov.

How can a person access public records in Rhode Island?

Some records are available online while others require a request form. If a request is necessary, it can be delivered by mail, email, or by phone to the record-holding department. 

Every department is different, so expect a public records search to vary, especially if you’re accessing records from multiple places. 

In general, a public records request should include: 

  • Your name and contact information, including an email, phone number, and mailing address
  • The name of the document you want access to with as much detail as possible
  • A specific time period that you’d like to receive the materials by
  • How to deliver the documents, whether by email or mail

Due to COVID-19, some public offices, especially those within the local government, may have limited business hours. As a result, online requests are best, but if you want to go in person you should call ahead.

Rhode Island criminal records

The majority of criminal records that are requested in Rhode Island are by employers who need a background check on a potential employee. Hiring an employee who will not tarnish your business name is good, and in some cases may keep your other employees safe. We have basic information and resources here so you can order criminal records on your potential employees. 

What’s on a criminal record?

A criminal record will provide you with information on a person’s encounters with the law. Records include arrests, convictions, and interactions of the person you are requesting. 

The criminal record you receive will provide you with this pertinent information: 

  • Personal information like a person’s name, birthday, nationality, etc.
  • A mugshot 
  • Fingerprints
  • A physical description including scars and tattoos 
  • The type of offense (misdemeanor or felony) 
  • Description of the crime

Where can a person find Rhode Island criminal records?

You can apply for a record in person at a local police depatment, but note that requests are limited due to the pandemic. You will need a check, money order, or credit card plus a valid identification card like a license. The cost is $5.00. 

A requester can order by mail, but you must have a notarized release form, a copy of a valid ID, a $5.00 check or money order, and a self-addressed stamped envelope. Mail the request to the Rhode Island Office of the Attorney General, 4 Howard Avenue, Cranston, RI 02920. It will take approximately seven days for a return. 

Rhode Island inmate records

Rhode Islands maintains seven prisons, two for females and five for male inmates. In 2019, there were 2665 inmates housed at these prisons.

What’s on an inmate record?

The information on each state’s inmate’s record can vary.  Rhode Island does provide you with personal information and several details about the person’s prison situation and case. These inmate records can provide the following:

  • The inmate’s ID number
  • A mug shot
  • Personal information such as name, birthdate and gender
  • Prison location
  • Jail transfer information
  • Parole information
  • Custody status

Where can a person find Rhode Island inmate records?

You can begin your search by entering the first and last name of the inmate. You can add an alias if known. The ID number of the inmate is another way to complete the search. Other factors you can add to narrow your search is the inmate’s minimum and maximum age, and the last known city of the inmate. 

Rhode Island court records

Rhode Island is made up of six courts, the Supreme, Superior, District, Family Court, Worker’s Compensation and Traffic Court. Each of the courts hold countless amounts of records especially if court cases take a long time to complete. Since there are so many courts, finding the records you require can be a cumbersome task. Here is some information on the courts in Rhode Island to make your search go smoothly. 

The Supreme Court proceeds over questions of law and equity and holds the supervisory position over all of the other state courts. 

The Superior Court handles felony cases, civil cases over $10,000, Probate Court appeals, and zoning cases. They proceed over trials on guns, drugs, sexual predators, and domestic violence. Appeals from District Courts are tried here. 

Family Courts focus on divorce, alimony, support, and custody of children. It hears cases on neglect, abuse, adoptions, paternity, and mentally challenged children. 

District Court has authority over criminal cases (felony and misdemeanor), civil cases not exceeding $5,000.00, tenant/landlord issues, and small claims cases.

What’s on a court record?

Court records are substantial and will contain various papers and forms. Here are some of the documents that you may find helpful: 

  • Case files
  • Dockets
  • Court minutes
  • Judgements
  • Jury records
  • Witness documentation

Where can a person find Rhode Island court records?

Accessing court records is easier in Rhode Island than it is in many states. The state has an online database that gives you access to numerous court cases. You can do a search by entering a business name, a party name, an attorney name, a case number, or a court. 

Rhode Island vital records

Vital records are certificates of major life events. Rhode Island provides you with birth records, marriage records, and death records through Vitalchek. Divorce records are available from the town clerk in the county where the divorce took place. You may not ever need a copy of one of these records, but some people need a birth certificate to enter school or get their passport. A copy of a death certificate may need to be provided for a life insurance policy. We have information for you to get copies of your vital records should the need arise. 

What information is needed to request a vital record?

To obtain your vital record in Rhode Island make sure you can provide the following information: 

  • The full name of the person or persons
  • The date of the event
  • The location of the event
  • A license number for a marriage certificate
  • A case file for divorce records
  • The place of death and date for a death certificate

Where can a person find Rhode Island vital records?

The Rhode Island Department of Health maintains vital records. 

You can request records if you are named on the certificate and over 18, a parent, grandparent or legal guardian. These records are not released to other people requesting them and will be denied. The cost for the certificate is $35.00. 

Frequently asked questions about Rhode Island records

We have composed a list of the most frequently asked questions about Rhode Island records here. 

Can a request be submitted by non-residents of the state?

You are not required to be a Rhode Island citizen to request information. In other words, you can be from Providence or Seattle, state residency doesn’t matter.

Is there a records custodian in Rhode Island?

The officials at the government agency are considered the custodians of the records. The Attorney General does have the right to intervene in record disputes.

What exemptions exist?

The Rhode Island judicial branch is exempt. The majority of the exemptions in Rhode Island are for records that would violate privacy laws. Trade secrets, health records including mental health, financial records, and tax returns are all exempt. School test results, law enforcement investigations and adoption documents are exempt.  

How long does that state have to respond?

Rhode Island has 10 days to respond to your record’s request. If they deny it within those 10 days it must be in writing. The state can extend this up to 30 days. If the request is denied, a written letter must state a specific reason for the denial and also share the procedures for filing for an appeal. 

Is there an appeals process in place?

There is an appeals process in Rhode Island. You have three years to file an appeal. It is in your best interest to file a claim with the Attorney General first. If you do win your case, Rhode Island is a state where you can win your attorney’s fees. 

What fees are associated with requesting public records?

The APRA has set fees for your request for documents. The charge is $.15 per page on the regular size or legal-size paper. Agencies can only charge fifteen dollars an hour for any work completed by an employee for records. They are required to give you an estimate of costs. 

  • Updated December 3, 2020
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