Rhode Island

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Rhode Island

Statutory Citation: R.I. Gen. Laws §§38-2-1

Definition of Public Record

Public records are all documents, no matter their physical form that are “made or received pursuant to law or ordinance or in connection with the transaction of official business by any agency.” 1

Exemptions to Public Records

Privacy concerns, the protection of law enforcement techniques and investigations, trade secrets, preliminary work product or negotiation records, personal financial records, and school test results are all covered. One of the more unique exemptions is that all communications between elected officials in Rhode Island and their constituents are exempt from disclosure. 2

Who Can Make The Request?


Response Timeframe

Rhode Island law allows 10 days for a public body to deny a request. If the agency does not respond within 10 days, it is deemed a denial. 3

Information on Fees

The language in the law states that “cost per copied page of written documents provided to the public shall not exceed fifteen cents ($.15) per page for documents copyable on common business or legal size paper. A public body may not charge more than the reasonable actual cost for providing electronic records,”R.I. Gen. Laws § 38-2-4(a). Costs for search time is limited to $15.00 an hour. Agencies are required to give the requester an estimate of costs, and upon request itemized breakdowns of where costs are being incurred. 4

Enforcement Mechanisms

The Act is enforced by the Attorney General or by a private party through an action for injunctive or declaratory relief in the superior court of the county where the record is maintained. R.I. Gen. Laws §  38-2-8 5

Attorney Fees

Yes, provided you win your case. 6

Do You Want to Make a Public Records Request?

The public records process begins with a public records request. Our guide outlines best practices for drafting well-defined requests for public information.

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Questions? Contact the Goldwater Institute.

If you have any questions regarding this guide or your rights to public information, please contact the Goldwater Institute at info@goldwaterinstitute.org to determine if the Institute can help you access information necessary to hold your government accountable.

Goldwater Institute