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Rhode Island Court Records

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Where to Find Rhode Island Civil Court Records

Civil court records in Rhode Island are legal documents containing information about civil court cases filed or heard within the state's jurisdiction. Judgments, motions, orders, affidavits, statements, summons, and any other document generated in the process of a civil court case are civil court records. Civil court cases involve disputes between individuals or organizations. Since civil cases are non-criminal, they are usually initiated by an individual or an organization by filing a complaint in court. Civil court cases are heard by different Rhode Island courts, depending on the type of dispute or the amount involved. Workers' Compensation Courts, Family Courts, District Courts, and Superior Courts hear civil disputes.

The Clerk of Court maintains court records. Interested persons may visit the Office of the Clerk of Court to request access to records in person. Requestors can also mail records requests to the Office of the Clerk. Alternatively, civil court records are available online through the Rhode Island Judiciary Public Access Portal and Case Management System. Third-party websites such as RhodeIslandCourtRecords.us also provide access to public civil court records.

Are Rhode Island Civil Court Records Public Records In Rhode Island?

The Access to Public Records Act (APRA) (R.I.Gen. Laws. § 38-2-3) states that records generated or maintained by government agencies are public records. Every person has a right to inspect and copy them. Some exemptions to the APRA are:

  • Medical information
  • Documents relating to doctor/patient or attorney/client relationships
  • Personnel and personal identifying information
  • Pension records
  • Trade secrets and other confidential financial information
  • Child custody, juvenile proceedings, and adoption records
  • Records of illegitimate births
  • Criminal law enforcement records
  • Military and law enforcement security plans
  • Test scores
  • Credit card account numbers

And other records as listed in R.I.Gen. Laws. § 38-2-2 for which disclosure would lead to an unwarranted invasion of privacy. Additionally, records sealed by court order or exempted from public access by state or federal laws are also APRA exempt. Sealed records are only accessible to authorized persons, such as persons named on the record or their attorneys, persons with a court order, and certain law enforcement agencies. Interested persons must prove that access to a sealed record is necessary before being granted a court order for access.

Types of Cases in Rhode Island Civil Court

In Rhode Island, civil court cases may be heard by different courts, depending on the case type and the amount involved. The four courts with jurisdiction of civil cases are:

  • Workers' Compensation Court: this court hears cases of compensation disputes between employers and their workers. The court also hears cases of work-related injuries and work insurance claims.
  • District Court: the District Court has exclusive jurisdiction of civil cases where no more than $5,000 is involved. It also shares jurisdiction with the Superior Court of disputes where more than $5,000 but no more than $10,000 is involved.
  • Family Court: the Family Court focuses on cases involving children and families. The court has jurisdiction to hear child support and custody cases, divorce, juvenile matters, adoption, paternity, and child marriage.
  • Superior Court: the Superior Court hears civil cases where more than $10,000 is involved. It also shares jurisdiction with the District Court on cases where between $5000 and $10,000 are involved.
  • Small Claims
  • Crime Trial
  • Contract and Property Disputes
  • Sex Offenses
  • Tort Cases

What is the Difference Between Criminal Cases and Civil Cases?

Civil court cases are non-criminal cases. They involve disputes between individuals, organizations, or between individuals and organizations. Since civil cases do not include offenses against the state, individuals or organizations initiate civil actions. Civil litigation begins when a plaintiff or complainant, which is the aggrieved party, files a complaint with the court. Civil cases can be settled without a trial if the involved parties agree through mediation.

Criminal court cases arise because of offenses against the state or violations of the state criminal code. Criminal offenses are classified into felonies and misdemeanors. Felonies are the most severe criminal offenses. They are punishable by incarceration in state prison for more than one year, fines, or both. Misdemeanors are less serious criminal offenses and are punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for no more than one year. Criminal offenses can also attract probation, community supervision, forfeiture, and other collateral consequences.

How Do I Find Civil Court Records In Rhode Island?

The Clerk of Court maintains court records and makes them available to the public on request. Interested persons must first identify the court where the case was heard to find civil court records in Rhode Island. Typically, civil cases are filed in the county where the complainant and respondent reside or where the dispute originated. Depending on the case type or the amount of money involved, civil court records may be maintained by the Workers' Compensation Court, Family Court, District Court, or Superior Court. However, Rhode Island bankruptcy records are maintained by dedicated bankruptcy courts that receive these petitions and hear bankruptcy cases.

Once the requestor has identified the record's location, the person may schedule a visit to the courthouse to request access in person. Requestors may also send written requests to the Clerk of Court by mail. Interested persons may inspect civil case records in person at no charge; however, the court will charge a fee to produce or certify copies of a record. If the court determines that the record request is in the public's interest, the cost may be waived or reduced according to R.I.Gen. Laws. § 38-2-4.

Only public civil court records are accessible to the public. Sealed records or records otherwise exempted from public access are not accessible to unauthorized persons. If parts of a public record contain confidential information, the record will be made available on request; however, confidential parts of the record will be redacted.

How Do I Find Civil Court Records Online?

The Rhode Island Judiciary makes statewide civil court records available online through its public portal or Public eService Access. The portal displays case information in chronological order. Users can search using names, record numbers, case types, court location, or date of record filing. Access to some case information may require a subscription. Eligible persons may request access by completing the Subscription Agreement Form.

Records of sealed cases or cases designated confidential by law are not available on the public portal. Some of the unavailable records are:

  • Child custody and adoption case records
  • Juvenile case records
  • Paternity case records
  • Mental health certification records

Other exemptions are listed in the Rules of Practice Governing Public Access to Electronic Case Information. Public civil court records are also available on computer terminals in the Clerk of Court's office in civil courthouses.

How to Get Civil Court Records Removed

Civil court records may not be removed in Rhode Island. Expungement is only available for criminal court records. Except for confidential records, sealed records, and records otherwise restricted from public access by state or federal laws, all civil court records are public records, accessible to the public.

How to Seal Civil Court Records in Rhode Island?

Individuals who want their civil court records sealed must file a motion in the court where the case was heard, stating the reason for the request. The court may grant the motion if it determines that it is in the public interest for the record to be sealed.

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