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Accessing Public Records

Many times the government records you are seeking are available without an Access Public Records Act (APRA) request. It is good to first reach out directly to an agency to discuss the information you are seeking and whether or not a formal APRA request is needed. Requests that involve older records or are voluminous in nature will likely benefit from the APRA process.

Open Record vs. Public Record

All records created by public bodies are public records, but not all public records are open to the public. RI General Law § 38-2-2 identifies which types of records are not considered open records.


When you may not need an APRA

Example: You’re about to purchase a house and you wish to see the original septic system plan. You do not need to file an APRA request. You reach out the Department of Environmental Management to request the information.

When you may need an APRA

Example: You're interested in the history of Rocky Point and as part of your research, you want to know about the acquisition of the land. This would likely require an APRA request from the Department of Environmental Management.

Why you should contact the agency first

Example: You want to learn about the contract for snow removal from state highways. You submit your request to the Department of Transportation, but, in their response, they tell you they do not possess those records. In fact, these records need to be requested through the Department of Administration's Division of Purchases. Sometimes an initial phone call to an agency before submitting a request can help make sure you are able to get the records you're looking for.

Below are some of the most common agencies that receive an APRA request, examples of the types of records they hold, and links to their APRA request forms or instructions.


Agency Example APRA Form
Department of Environmental Management
Visit their website
Site assessments, permit and licensing registrations. File APRA
Department of Health
Visit their website
Inspection results on a property for lead or food safety. File APRA
Division of Business Regulation
Visit their website
Enforcement actions such as decisions, consent agreements and orders by the Division. File APRA
Municipal Governments Licensing applications, permit registrations, and inspection reports. Contact your city or town
Rhode Island State Police/Public Safety
Visit their website
Accident reports and arrest logs. File APRA
Rhode Island Department of Education
Visit their website
Contracts, performance reports and evaluations. File APRA
Department of Children, Youth and Families
Visit their website 
Case reports, licensing records, confidential information requests File APRA
Division of Labor and Training
Visit their website 
Licensing and inspection results. File APRA
Division of Purchases
Visit their website 
Bid submissions for a specific RFP. File APRA
Department of Transportation
Visit their website 
Roadwork and construction projects on State maintained roads and highways. File APRA

General Officers

To request information from currently sitting general officers, please contact their office. Some records of previous general officers may be at the Rhode Island State Archives, of which, pursuant to RI General Law § 42-8.1-7(e)(1) these records may be sealed and therefore unavailable. You may contact the State Archives to see which previous administrations have records and if they are available.

Agency APRA Form
Governor
Visit their website 
File APRA
Lieutenant Governor
Visit their website 
File APRA
Secretary of State 
Visit their website 
File APRA
General Treasurer 
Visit their website 
File APRA
Attorney General
Visit their website 
File APRA

Processing an APRA request

The agency has 10 business days from the date they receive the request to respond at which point they will either provide the records, request a 20-day extension, or inform you that they do not have the records you requested. In the process of requesting an extension, the agency may provide an itemized invoice of what the retrieval will cost.

NOTE: All state agencies must have APRA procedures in policy or regulations. See the Department of State’s APRA regulations.

What is a public record?

Public records are records created by our state agencies. Public records come in many forms, including correspondence, calendars, photographs, videos, websites, databases, social media accounts, and more.

Public Record Statute

What is an APRA request?

APRA was designed to facilitate transparency in government. An APRA request is a way to formally request open public records that are not readily available. APRA requests are submitted directly to the agency or department that created the document. Once you enter the APRA process, the agency is limited solely to documents you have requested and must follow procedures outlined in statute when seeking clarifications from you. The Office of the Attorney General enforces APRA, and the Department of State Public Records Administration oversees records retention.

APRA Statute

APRA vs. FOIA

An APRA request is not the same as a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. An APRA request is only for Rhode Island state and municipal levels of government. FOIA requests are to access federal-level public records.

Public Record Statute

Filing an APRA request

If you are instructed to file an APRA request:

  • Fill out the agency’s APRA request form it provides, or write a letter or email stating, “This is an APRA request.”
  • Provide contact information to send the requested information.

Resources