A person acquires a criminal record in Rhode Island the first time they are arrested and fingerprinted by law enforcement in the state. Henceforth, any subsequent arrests and/or criminal convictions will be added to the person’s Rhode Island criminal record.
Information about arrests and convictions that occur in the state is forwarded to the Rhode Island Bureau of Criminal Identification, which manages the state’s central repository of criminal history record information.
Unlike in many other states, you cannot obtain a copy of another person’s Rhode Island criminal record without that individual’s signed and notarized authorization, nor is there a searchable online database of criminal record information available to the general public. However, you can request a copy of your own criminal record in person or through the mail from the BCI.
What is a criminal record?
A criminal record is an official document detailing a person’s criminal convictions, pending criminal cases, prior arrests, and other interactions with law enforcement agencies. Additional names for a criminal record include criminal history record, rap sheet, and a police record.
As with marriage records and court records, criminal records are generally public records in the United States and can be accessed through a criminal background check. However, public access to specific criminal record information varies from state to state.
In the State of Rhode Island, a person may request a copy of their own criminal record, but acquiring a copy of another person’s criminal record requires the signed consent of that individual.
What is included in a Rhode Island criminal record?
As criminal records are kept by law enforcement agencies at all levels of government in the United States, a Rhode Island criminal record may vary in format and content depending on the law enforcement database from which it is accessed.
Generally, a Rhode Island criminal record will include the following information:
- A person’s full name and possible aliases
- Personal information such as age, date of birth, sex, ethnicity, height, weight, and other physical characteristics
- Fingerprints and mugshot
- Misdemeanor criminal offenses and convictions
- Felony criminal offenses and convictions
Why would someone access a criminal record?
There are many reasons to access a criminal record. Most commonly, people search criminal records as a way to run a background check on a particular person. They’re also used by law enforcement to identify or locate people involved in unsolved crimes or by the court system to determine an appropriate sentence after a conviction.
An individual may want to access his or her own record as well. It’s not uncommon for people to request their own criminal records to see what information is public. In some cases, a record could be inaccurate or include outdated information. If that’s the case, it’s important to have the record corrected.
What’s the difference between an infraction, misdemeanor, and felony?
Arrests and convictions listed on a criminal record are separated into three categories: infractions, misdemeanors, and felonies.
To give a better understanding of the information listed on a criminal record, here’s a quick overview of each category of offense:
- Infraction – An infraction is a minor violation of the law that is regulated at the state level. Punishment for an infraction is usually just a fine or a written warning, rather than a jail or prison sentence. Examples of infractions include minor traffic violations, public nuisance offenses, and littering.
- Misdemeanor – A misdemeanor is a crime that is more serious than an infraction, yet less serious than a felony. Generally, a misdemeanor punishable by a term of imprisonment of less than a year, or by a term of probation. An individual convicted of a misdemeanor is more likely to serve time in a county or local jail than in a federal or state prison. Examples of misdemeanors include driving under the influence, most drug abuse violations, and petty theft.
- Felony – A felony is the most serious type of crime, often characterized by the use of a weapon during a crime, serious injury to a victim, and/or holding a person against their will. Felony convictions typically result in a term of imprisonment of more than one year in a state or federal prison. Examples of felonies include rape, murder, and grand theft.
What is the difference between a Rhode Island arrest record and a Rhode Island criminal record?
While an arrest record is an official document including the details of a specific arrest, a criminal record is a more comprehensive document that includes a person’s entire criminal background known to law enforcement agencies.
How do I request a copy of my Rhode Island criminal record?
Individuals may request a copy of their own criminal record from the Rhode Island Bureau of Criminal Identification in exchange for paying a $5 fee. This can be done in person or by postal mail. In Rhode Island, a state criminal background check is referred to as a “BCI” and does not contain out-of-state criminal offenses.
Requesting a Rhode Island BCI in-person
- Bring a valid government-issued photo ID to the Attorney General’s Customer Service Center at 4 Howard Avenue, Cranston, RI.
- Head to the service counter, and request a state background check. be prepared to pay the $5 fee with a check, money order, or credit card (Make the check out to “BCI”). Cash is not accepted.
Attorney General’s Customer Service Center working hours are from Monday through Friday, 8:30 AM – 4:30 PM. However, it is best to call ahead of time to make sure that hours and/or services are not affected by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The Office of the Attorney General can be reached at (401) 274-4400.
Requesting a Rhode Island BCI by mail
- Print, complete, and sign a Background Check Request Form.
- Have the form notarized by an authorized notary public.
- Make a copy of a valid government-issued photo ID (RH driver’s license, state ID, or US passport).
- Prepare a check or money order for $5 payable to “BCI”
- Prepare a self-addressed and stamped return envelope.
- Mail the form, check or money order, photocopied ID, and return envelope to
Attorney General Julius C. Michaelson Customer Service Center
4 Howard Avenue
Cranston, RI 02920
Processing the request will take around 7 business days. Those that intend to release their BCI to a third party must have the request form signed and notarized by the third party.
How do I obtain a physical copy of a Rhode Island criminal record?
Upon submitting a BCI request, if you are found to have a criminal record in Rhode Island, a physical copy will be returned to you at the address specified on the request form.
Why can’t I access a Rhode Island criminal record?
You will not be able to obtain the criminal record of another person without their signed consent in the state. If a request for a copy of your own Rhode Island criminal record yields a negative response, it means that you do not have a criminal record on file in the state.
How do I search for Rhode Island criminal case court records?
The Rhode Island Judiciary Public Portal: Access to Case Information is a search tool available to the general public that can be used to remotely access the register of actions and public dockets of the following:
- Rhode Island Supreme Court cases
- Superior and District court civil and criminal cases
- Family Court domestic relations cases
- Workers’ Compensation Court cases
- Traffic Tribunal Cases
However, access to detailed court case information is limited to Rhode Island admitted attorneys and other authorized persons. Information about sealed and confidential cases may also be restricted.
Does Rhode Island allow criminal records to be sealed or expunged?
Compared to the rest of the country, Rhode Island has liberal expungement policies. According to RI.gov, a number of misdemeanor crimes and certain non-violent felonies may be eligible for expungement. If a successful expungement court order is passed, the charge will be sealed from public access or removed from the record, entirely.
Submit an Expungement Online Application to find out more about your expungement eligibility and the state’s expungement process.
How can I have false information on a Rhode Island criminal record corrected?
Contact the Rhode Island Office of the Attorney General at 401-274-4400 for information on how to submit an official challenge to correct false information on your criminal record. You may be prompted to submit a fingerprint card with all ten of your fingerprints taken in a situation of mistaken identity or falsely attributed arrest.
How long are Rhode Island criminal records kept on file?
Rhode Island criminal history record information is maintained in the central repository for an indefinite period unless a successful expungement order is passed in court to remove the charge(s).