Rhode Island Court Records
Are Criminal Records Public In Rhode Island?
Under the Rhode Island Access to Public Records Act, criminal records are considered public records. The act grants public access to Rhode Island criminal records, allowing all persons to request these records from record custodians in the state. Rhode Island residents may request personal records without any restrictions. However, the law only accommodates third-party requests if the requestor obtains consent from the person named on the record.
Regardless of the above, Rhode Island law enforcement agencies are statutorily permitted to withhold criminal records if the information on the records could:
- Interfere with criminal investigations or law enforcement proceedings
- Deprive a person a right to a fair trial
- Disclose the identity of a confidential source
- Constitute an unnecessary invasion of a person’s privacy
- Put the life or safety of an individual in danger
What Is Included In A Criminal Record In Rhode Island?
A criminal record is an official document that includes specific details of a person’s criminal history. Information on a criminal record begins from the point of an arrest to a final resolution of the case. The information included in these records is irrespective of whether or not the person was found guilty. Sometimes called a RAP (Record of Arrests and Prosecutions) sheet, a criminal record contains specific details of the individual’s criminal trajectory, including the following information:
- The offender’s name, as well as all known aliases
- Descriptors such as gender, height, weight, and race
- All arrest dates
- Details on the charges that led to the arrests
- Conviction information such as a prison sentence
- Length of a prison sentence
- Expected release date
- Parole or probation information
How To Look Up Criminal Records In Rhode Island?
Criminal records in Rhode Island are available to requestors from the Bureau of Criminal Identification (BCI) at the Office of the Attorney General. Eligible persons may request criminal records either in person or by mail. Each request costs $5. Note that each credit card transactions carry a 2% charge, plus an additional 50 cents.
For in-person requests, visit the BCI window at the Attorney General’s Customer Service Center. Requestors must visit with a valid government-issued ID such as a state identification card, United States passport, or a driver’s license. The BCI accepts payments for walk-in requestors in cash, credit card, check, or money order. Note that the check or money order should be payable to “BCI.” Also, a requestor may only submit one request at a time, at the BCI window. Persons interested in requesting criminal records on more than one person are advised to consider requesting via mail. In-person requestors with multiple requests will have to drop the requests and wait for further information.
To request in person, visit the following address from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm, from Monday to Friday:
Attorney General’s Customer Service Center
4 Howard Avenue
Cranston, RI 02920
Phone: (401) 274–4400
Criminal records are also accessible from the BCI via mail. To send a mail request, download and fill the release form available in English and Spanish. Completing the form requires a full name, date of birth, and maiden name, if applicable. The form should also carry the person’s signature, date, and attestation from a Notary Public. Note that the BCI requires mail requests to carry a copy of the person’s photo identification (front and back) that shows the person’s date of birth. The requestor should also include a self-addressed and stamped envelope to receive the records after processing.
All mail requests must include a check or money order for $5, payable to the BCI. Cash and credit cards are not accepted by mail. Enclose all necessary documents in an envelope and send to:
Attorney General’s Customer Service Center
4 Howard Avenue
Cranston, RI 02920
Phone: (401) 274–4400
Requestors should allow seven business days for processing.
For third-party criminal records, the requestor should also fill the release form and have the subject of the record attest to the disclaimer. The form should also be duly signed, notarized, and carry a photo ID (front and back) with a date of birth. Third-party requestors may request in person or by mail at the above address. Note that third-party requestors are also only allowed one request at a time when requesting in person.
In some cases, Rhode Island laws require certain persons to obtain a fingerprint-based national criminal record, instead of a state record. In other instances, requestors may need to request records from both state and national custodians. Certain employment roles, such as medical applications and security responsibilities, require a fingerprint-based national criminal record through the Rhode Island Office of the Attorney General. To request a fingerprint-based national criminal record, download and complete the BCI’s fingerprint form.
Completing the form requires a full name, email address, date of birth, place of birth, active phone number, and social security number. The form requires the requestor to provide a current address only if it is different from the address on the photo ID to be submitted with the request. The applicant must also select a reason for the fingerprint-based request among the options provided on the form, and specify the name of the agency or employer that requires a fingerprint national criminal record.
Note that a fingerprint-based national criminal record request costs $35. Payment is accepted by credit card, check, or money order payable to “BCI.” Cash payments are not accepted. Also, each credit card transaction carries a 2% processing fee and an additional charge of 50 cents. After filling the fingerprint form, visit the Attorney General’s Customer Service Center for fingerprinting services.
The BCI sends the fingerprints electronically to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and directly receives an FBI-generated criminal record after the FBI’s processing. The BCI’s fingerprint technician reviews the record and directly notifies the agency or employer stated on the fingerprint form if a “disqualifying offense” is found. After notifying the agency or employer, the BCI informs the applicant who may then receive a copy of the fingerprint national criminal record in person. Note that the applicant may not receive a national criminal record until the agency or employer is notified.
Persons who live outside Rhode Island may also obtain a fingerprint-based national criminal record from the BCI. Out-of-state requestors may download and complete the following forms:
- BCI fingerprint disclaimer in English or Spanish. The disclaimer form must be notarized.
- Fingerprint form in English or Spanish
- Certification of Fingerprints
The Certification of Fingerprints form should be completed by the applicant and the agency that took the applicant’s fingerprint. The form requires the applicant’s name and signature and the name and signature of the fingerprint technician who took the fingerprints. The form should also show the name of the agency that took the fingerprint, a direct phone number, address, city, and state. The applicant should complete the form with the type and number on the ID presented to the fingerprint technician.
Note that several Rhode Island police departments also entertain requests for state and national criminal records. Interested persons may reach out to the nearest police department to determine the availability of this service.
Persons that require a Rhode Island criminal record for overseas purposes must inform the BCI upon request, to receive the correct paperwork for that purpose. Such persons must also ask for the Attorney General’s signature print-out by mail on in person. After receiving the letter, obtain an apostille authentication from the Office of the Secretary of State, through its Division of Business Services. An apostille authentication costs an additional $5 for each record. Make money orders and checks payable to the Rhode Island Department of State. Complete the In-Person Apostille Order Form or the Mail Apostille Order Form. Visit or send a mail to Office of the Secretary of State at:
148 West River Street
Providence, RI 02904
How Can I Get My Criminal Records For Free In Rhode Island?
The Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) fulfills requests for criminal records for $5, $35, or $40, depending on whether the requestor needs a state criminal record, national criminal record, or both. Currently, the BCI does not have any provisions that allow requestors to obtain a criminal record for free. Interested persons may contact the BCI for more information about the possibility of a free criminal record.
How To Search Criminal Records Online In Rhode Island?
In Rhode Island, criminal records are only available from the BCI by mail and in person. The BCI does not have an online platform where interested persons may search for criminal records. However, requestors may search online for criminal court records using the smart search for case files provided by the Rhode Island Judiciary.
Interested persons may use the smart search to find criminal case records by the subject’s first name, last name, middle name, or record number. Other options to filter the search result include the subject’s date of birth, state ID number, or booking number. Users may also streamline the search using a case status, file date range, and case type.
Note that criminal case files on the Rhode Island Judiciary’s smart search platforms may not be an exhaustive representation of a person’s criminal case. Also, online criminal case files do not show a person’s criminal history; hence they should not be used as a replacement for official state and national criminal records from the BCI.
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 the 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 Get Criminal Records Expunged In Rhode Island?
According to Section 12–1.3–1 of the Rhode Island General Laws, residents may apply to expunge criminal records in the state. To qualify for an expungement, the following requirements apply:
- The person has completed all terms of a court-ordered sentence or probation
- The person has made all restitutions including fines
- Five years have passed since completing the sentence for a non-violent misdemeanor conviction
- Ten years have passed since completing the sentence for a non-violent felony conviction
- The person did not receive any conviction during the waiting period
- The person was not arrested for a felony or misdemeanor during the waiting period
Note that Rhode Island laws do not allow for the expungement of violent crimes. These crimes include:
- First-degree arson
- First and second-degree sexual assault
- First and second-degree child molestation
Persons eligible for expungement may begin by filing a Motion to Expunge or Seal record in the court with jurisdiction over the case. Completing the form requires the applicant’s name, case number, BCI number, date, and specific county. The applicant should tick the “expunged” box and also specify the counts, charges, and possible dispositions for the convictions an expungement is sought. Also, specify the law enforcement agency that charged the case. At the submission, the petition must confirm that the law enforcement agency and the Attorney General have been notified. Note that the form must be signed and notarized.
Typically, the judge will set a date for a hearing where the petitioner may present arguments in support of the expungement. Note that if the court grants the expungement, the applicant will be required to pay $100 to the court. After the payment, the clerk’s office will prepare three certified copies of the order of expungement. The applicant will be responsible for delivering one copy each to the BCI and the police department that charged the case. Applicants are advised to retain one copy as a personal record.
How To Get Criminal Records Sealed In Rhode Island?
Sealing a criminal record in Rhode Island is possible as an alternative to expungement under Section 12–1–12 of the Rhode Island General Laws. Although the process of sealing a record is similar to the process of expungement, the requirements are markedly different. To seal a Rhode Island criminal record, one of the following must be true:
- The criminal case resulted in a dismissal, no true bill, or no information. This is unavailable for felony convictions, and may only be done once.
- The person was found not guilty at trial. Sealing is available here, regardless of past felony convictions.
- The person was wrongfully arrested. The person may also seal regardless of any previous convictions.
To seal a criminal record, complete the Motion to Expunge or Seal Record, making sure to check the “sealed” box. Note that the same convictions ineligible for expungement are also ineligible to be sealed.
Who Can See My Expunged Or Sealed Criminal Record In Rhode Island?
After receiving a seal or expunge order, access to the criminal record is significantly restricted, making it impossible for members of the public to view the record. However, in both cases, the record is not destroyed. The following entities may still access sealed or expunged records:
- The person named on the record;
- Law enforcement agencies, if the record is required to investigate or properly prosecute a case. Law enforcement agencies may also view a sealed or expunged criminal record if the petitioner applies to the agency for employment;
- A state licensing agency may also view a sealed or expunged criminal record to determine whether the applicant is fit to receive a license.