Rhode Island Court Records

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What are Rhode Island Criminal Court Records?

Rhode Island Criminal Court Records refer to all formal documents created and maintained by the Courts of Rhode Island that contain records of criminal court proceedings. These documents typically contain information related to a crime being persecuted, including the nature of the crime, transcripts of motion arguments, court proceedings as well as the final decrees.

Understanding the Rhode Island Criminal Court System

There are eight different courts in the Rhode Island State Court System. However, three of them deal with criminal matters. These include the Supreme Court, which has supreme oversight, the Superior Court, which hears jury trials, as well as the District Courts.

The Supreme Court

The Supreme Court of Rhode Island is at the top of the legal hierarchy in the state. It oversees all decisions made by the lower courts, hearing interlocutory appeals, appeals by right, and appeals by permission for rulings made in civil, criminal, administrative, and writ cases. It also holds sole oversight on original actions on writ applications, matters pertaining to the judiciary and the bar, and other matters.

The Superior Court

Rhode Island’s Superior Court holds jurisdiction over all felony cases, equity matters, as well as all civil matters in which the amount in dispute exceeds $10,000. Being the State’s trial court of record, the Superior Court is the only court on Rhode Island where jury trials can be heard. Parties unsatisfied with the rulings of the Superior Court must seek relief directly from the Supreme Court as Rhode Island does not have a court of appeal.

The District Court

The District Court of Rhode Island was set up to hear cases relating to contractual matters, tort, real estate property valued at $10,000 and above, and administrative appeals. It also handles misdemeanor criminal cases and preliminary hearings which are transferred to the Superior Court, in the event that solutions cannot be reached.

What’s included in a Rhode Island Criminal Court Record?

The information contained in a criminal court record is designed to give general information about the case and provide a proper account of the processes undergone in the courts. Therefore, most criminal court records are similar but include particular information unique to each case and the court managing it.

relatively similar and vary only based on the case and the court in which it is handled. A person who seeks out a criminal court record in Rhode Island will most likely find the document contains:

  • All data relating to the defendant including a home address and other contact information.
  • Information about the crime with which the defendant is charged, the legal consequences of the crime, and any added information pertaining to the indictment.
  • Details of the court summons and the defendant’s plea, be it innocent or guilty.
  • Warrants issued to permit the arrest of the defendant.
  • If the defendant was unable to stand trial, documents supporting the claim.
  • Any evidence presented supporting the plaintiff’s claim or in defense of the defendant.
  • Full transcripts of the trial including all court actions and motions.
  • The final verdict of the court and in cases where the defendant is found guilty, penalties ascribed. This could include jail time, probation, community service, fines, and others.

Obtaining Rhode Island Criminal Court Records

Following the laws laid down in the Rhode Island Access to Public Records Act, all criminal court records are in the public domain and can be accessed by members of the public either via the internet or in person.

How to Find Rhode Island Criminal Court Records Online

The Superior Court of Rhode Island makes all criminal court records available online. Interested parties can retrieve information by visiting the Rhode Island Judiciary Public Portal.

Additionally, publicly available records are accessible from some third-party websites. These websites offer the benefit of not being limited by geographical record availability and can often serve as a starting point when researching a specific or multiple records. To find a record using the search engines on these sites, interested parties must provide:

  • The name of someone involved providing it is a not a juvenile
  • The assumed location of the record in question such as a city, county, or state name

Third-party sites are not government-sponsored websites, and record availability may differ from official channels.

How Do I Access Rhode Island Criminal Court Records in Person?

Online access to Criminal Court Records is usually granted to parties that have a direct connection to the case like the defendant or plaintiff counsels or law enforcement. Other interested parties must seek records out in person. To do this, interested parties must follow these steps:

Step 1. Locate the Correct Courthouse

Before an interested party can request for criminal court records, they must know which courthouse the records are stored in. Typically, criminal court records are stored at the Superior Courts or the District Courts. Interested parties can find their locations and addresses on the Rhode Island Courts Website.

Step 2. Gather The Necessary Case Information

To get the records being sought, it is important to include all the relevant information possessed to ensure a speedy search. The best option for seeking out the court record is to provide the case number. However, if that is unavailable, requesters should provide the name(s) of the parties included in the case. If the interested party knows the names of the attorneys that attended the case or the judge who presided over it, that might help them find the case file faster.

Step 3. Request the Records

With the correct court and other necessary information in hand, send in a written application for the court records. This request is usually treated by the court clerk.

Step 4. Pay for Records

Although Rhode Island’s criminal records are in the public domain and accessible for free, the cost of making copies of these documents must be borne by the person making the request. Applicants will have to make payments for the documents before they are released to them. Fees may vary based on the number of copies requested.

Are all Rhode Island Criminal Court Records Public?

The Rhode Island Access to Public Records Act was passed in 1979, in a bid to ensure transparency and government accountability. Under this act, criminal records in the state of Rhode Island are available to the public upon request. This does not, however, include criminal records that have been sealed by court order. Interested persons are also able to obtain all information relating to arrests, trials, convictions, court sentences, imprisonment, probation, and parole. At the moment, anyone searching for information on criminal cases in Rhode Island can find most of them on the Rhode Island Judiciary Public Portal.

Family Court Records can include marriage records and divorce records. These records contain personal information of those involved and their maintenance is critical should anyone involved wish to make changes. Because of this both marriage and divorce records can be considered more difficult to locate and obtain than other public records, and may not be available through government sources or third party public record websites.

Can I Access Sealed Criminal Court Records?

This depends. If a criminal court record has been sealed, it is no longer available to the public. It cannot be accessed by landlords, employers, or anyone else who could make decisions that would affect the life of the individual charged. The only persons with direct access to sealed records are law enforcement agents. Access to sealed records can also be gained by third-parties who can secure a court order to release them.

How do I find Rhode Island Public Records for Free?

Public records in Rhode Island can be retrieved in the same manner as criminal court records. As with criminal court records, other than the cost of retrieving and copying the documents, there is no charge.

Are Juvenile Criminal Records Open to the Public?

Juvenile Criminal Records in the state of Rhode Island are kept separate from the records of adults and are as such, not open to the public. However, police reports that detail the arrest or detention of juveniles are open to inspection by their parents, guardians, or attorneys.

What Records are Sealed by Rhode Island Statute?

Members of the public have no access to criminal court records protected by law or existing court order. This includes records detailing wrongful arrests and juvenile information. Under R.I. Gen. Laws § 12-1-12.2(b), any arrest record which is shown to have been wrongful (due to issues like non-probable cause, mistaken identity, or any other reason) must be automatically sealed 60 days after it is determined that charges will not be brought forth. Under Rhode Island Statute, all juvenile records are sealed automatically once the case is completed. This is regardless of the outcome; whether the case is dismissed or the juvenile is found innocent.

Both government websites and organizations may offer divorce and marriage records. Similarly, third party public record websites can also provide these types of records. But because third party organizations are not operated or sponsored by the government, record availability may vary. Further, marriage and divorce records are considered highly private and are often sealed, meaning availability of these types of records cannot be guaranteed.

Are Trial Transcripts Open to the Public?

Yes, they are. To obtain them, interested parties must complete a Transcript Order Form and address it to the Clerk of the specific court. Recovering and copying these documents will come at a fee.

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