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Rhode Island Court Records

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What Are the Differences Between Federal and State Crimes?

Unlike state crimes that are based on the state’s criminal code, the United States criminal laws contain the various offenses that are considered federal crimes and the consequences of violating such laws. When a federal crime occurs, it is the responsibility of federal law enforcement agencies to investigate criminal offenses and ensure that offenders are tried in a federal court. Federal law enforcement agencies include the Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Justice, Central Intelligence Agency. Examples of federal crimes include:

  • Blackmail
  • Dealing in biological weapons
  • Fraud
  • False personation
  • Unlawful use of firearms
  • Terrorism
  • Forgery
  • Corruption

While federal criminal offenses are tried in a federal court, violators of the Rhode Island state crimes are usually prosecuted at a state criminal court. In Rhode Island, the Department of Public Safety with the local law agencies is responsible for the investigation of crimes that occur within the state’s jurisdiction. State crimes include:

  • Bigamy
  • Arson
  • Assault
  • Crime against nature
  • Illegal gambling
  • Kidnapping
  • Embezzlement
  • Larceny
  • Computer software fraud
  • Racketeering

Offenses that violate both federal and state criminal laws can lead to the investigation and prosecution of such crimes by both government agencies. The Dual Sovereignty Doctrine allows criminal offenses that occur in both federal and state jurisdictions to be concurrently handled by both governments.

How Does Rhode Island State Court System Differ from the Federal Court System?

The Rhode Island state court system consists of the trial courts and the state’s supreme court. Under the trial, courts are the superior courts, district courts, family courts, worker’s compensation court, and traffic tribunal. The superior court handles criminal proceedings and has concurrent jurisdiction with the district court over civil cases. Appeals from the district courts are also heard in the superior court.

In a criminal case, the defendant is brought before a district court. Offenders can plead guilty or not guilty during misdemeanor offenses proceedings but not for felony offenses. The case is taken before a grand jury decides if there is enough evidence to charge the defendant. If enough evidence is established, the defendant is indicted and taken before a superior court. A pre-arraignment and pre-conference meetings occur to explore possibilities of settling the cases before it goes to trial. If the defendant and prosecutor cannot reach an agreement, the criminal case goes to trial.

The state’s supreme court is the highest court level, and cases from the superior court are appealed there.

How Many Federal Courts are There in Rhode Island?

In Rhode Island, there are two federal courts:

  • United States District Court for the District of Rhode Island
  • United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Rhode Island

The United States District Court for the District of Rhode Island carters for all the townships in the state. The court has its location in Providence city:

U.S. District Court

District of Rhode Island

One Exchange Terrace

Federal Building and Courthouse

Providence, RI 02903

The United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Rhode Island has its office located in Providence.

US Bankruptcy Court

District of Rhode Island

380 Westminster Street,

6th Floor

Providence, RI 02903

Are Federal Cases Public Records?

Yes, information on federal cases is available to the public. The general public has access to records of federal cases, following the Freedom of Information Act. Interested persons may obtain federal case records from the custodian or via electronic means. Some federal courthouses provide public access terminals, and interested persons may search for documents by the details of the federal case. Records are also accessible online through the PACER site, which hosts a database of information used in federal court proceedings. However, some federal cases are unavailable to members of the general public. Such records may be exempted from the public’s access if sealed or due to the sensitive information it contains. Records that provide information on minors are also inaccessible, except for eligible persons and government agencies.

Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching simpler, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for a specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:

  • The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
  • The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that a person resides in or was accused in.

Third-party sites are independent of government sources and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.

How to Find Federal Courts Records Online

The Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) site can be used to access all records generated and maintained by the U.S federal courts, including Rhode Island federal court records. Interested individuals can open an account on the PACER site to obtain federal court information in Rhode Island. To lookup records, users can search by the Rhode Island federal court that the case proceedings occurred. Alternatively, the PACER Case Locator can help locate all U.S federal courts and case numbers. Upon finding desired Rhode Island federal court records, users may pay a fee of $0.50 per page to obtain copies of records and $3.00 per document. For waiver of fees, users may view the fee schedule to see if they are eligible.

How to Find Federal Court Records in Rhode Island?

To obtain federal court records in Rhode Island, persons may request desired information from the court’s clerk where the case proceedings occurred. To request records, interested persons may visit the clerk’s office in-person or make use of the mail.

Persons who wish to obtain records of the United States District Court for the District of Rhode Island may visit the clerk’s office on weekdays except for federal holidays. A written request can also be sent to the clerk via mail to the office address:

U.S. District Court

District of Rhode Island

One Exchange Terrace

Federal Building and Courthouse

Providence, RI 02903

(401) 752–7200

The clerk may charge requestors for searching and copying records following the fee schedule. Requestors can pay fees in the form of money orders or check orders.

To order court transcripts used during a court proceeding, the Transcript Order Form can be completed and submitted to the court.

Persons looking to obtain the United States Bankruptcy Court Records for the District of Rhode Island may use the public access terminals at the clerk’s office. Users of these terminals can search records by the bankruptcy case numbers. Records may also be gotten from the clerk’s office via mail by writing a request and sending it to the office location. Charges may apply following the court’s fee schedule. Applications can be made out to:

US Bankruptcy Court

District of Rhode Island

380 Westminster Street,

6th Floor

Providence, RI 02903

(401) 626–3100

Can Federal Crimes Be Dismissed in Rhode Island?

The dismissal of federal crimes in Rhode Island may occur when unnecessary delay during criminal trial proceedings violates the Speedy Trial Act. Defendants who are not found guilty of criminal charges also have all charges dismissed. Following the Double Jeopardy law, persons dismissed of criminal charges may not be re-indicted except in cases of a mistrial, or the crime falls under the jurisdiction of multiple sovereignties.

How Do I Clear My Federal Criminal Record?

While there are no exact provisions in the law to clear federal criminal records, interested persons may petition the court or write to the judge to expunge or seal their criminal records. When criminal records are expunged, they are completely cleared from the offender’s records. The sealing of criminal records makes them inaccessible to the public. Upon the petition to clear federal criminal records, the judge reviews if the motives to clear desired criminal records are valid under the law.

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