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Rhode Island Public Records

In Rhode Island, all documents, papers, letters, maps, books, tapes, photographs, films, sound recordings, magnetic or other tapes, electronic data processing records, and computer data made or received in the course of official business by any public agency are considered public records. The Access to Public Records Act, located in Statutory Code Chapter 38-2, declares that every person has the right to inspect these records.

Some exceptions are medical records, personnel records, trade secrets, personal financial records, law enforcement investigation records, records protected by attorney/client relationship, child custody & adoption records, security plans by military & law enforcement agencies, labor negotiation strategy reports or notes, and library records of borrowers.

We have assembled the most useful Rhode Island statewide resources below.  You can find more types of databases using the drop-down menus in the blue box.

  • Court System - The Rhode Island court system has four levels. At the first level is the Traffic Tribunal, which handles civil traffic offenses and has its own Appeals Division. The Court for Workers Compensation and the District Court are at the second level. The latter handles civil cases under $5,000 and shares jurisdiction with the Superior Court for cases between $5,000 and $10,000. The District Court also handles small claims, misdemeanors, and arraignments for felony cases. At the third level are the Family Court, which handles cases involving children and families; and the Superior Court, which handles felony cases, civil cases exceeding $10,000, and appeals from the District Court. At the top is the Rhode Island Supreme Court, which reviews decisions from all lower courts.  Rhode Island Court Records
  • Criminal Records - Misdemeanors are handled by the District Court. The Family Court handles juvenile criminal cases. Felonies are handled by the Superior Court. You can find these online on the Rhode Island Judiciary Adult Criminal record database.  For more information, and to find online databases, go to our Rhode Island Criminal Records page.
  • Vital Records – Rhode Island has seven different state resources for obtaining birth, death, marriage & divorce certificates, such as the Rhode Island State Archives at 337 Westminster Street, Providence, RI, 02903.  Go to our Vital Records page for information on the other six resources.  Also there you will find statewide historical birth indexes, resources for ordering certificates; links to the Social Security Death Index for Rhode Island, historical statewide death & burial databases, cemetery transcriptions, resources for ordering certificates; historical statewide marriages, and instructions for ordering certificates.

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