Rhode Island Courts Overview
It helps to understand how the Rhode Island state court system works when you’re trying to find court records. The Rhode Island trial court system consists of Superior Courts, District Courts, Family Courts, Probate Courts, Municipal Courts, Traffic Tribunals, and Workers' Compensation Court.
Rhode Island has a state trial court system and some local courts operated by municipalities. The state trial court system consists of Superior Courts, Family Courts, District Courts, Traffic Tribunal Courts and the Workers\' Compensation Court. Municipal Courts and Probate Courts are local courts.
Superior Courts have general jurisdiction over all types of civil and criminal cases, but generally only handle cases that are beyond the jurisdiction of other courts. Family Courts, District Courts, Traffic Tribunals, Municipal Courts and Probate Courts have limited jurisdiction over certain types of cases. The Workers\' Compensation Court is a specialized court that handles certain types of civil cases for the entire state from one main location.
If you prefer, you can start your search by going to Rhode Island courts by county.
Rhode Island Superior CourtsSuperior Courts have general jurisdiction over all civil and criminal cases, and typically handles cases that are beyond the jurisdiction of other courts.
Criminal cases heard by Superior Courts include felonies and some misdemeanors, Superior Courts handle misdemeanor criminal cases when a right to a jury trial is invoked.
Civil cases heard by Superior Courts include general civil claims for more than $10,000. Superior Courts share original jurisdiction with District Courts over most general civil claims for more than $5,000 and less than $10,000. Superior Courts also handle most civil cases with disputes over rights, interests and title to real estate. Superior Courts also exercise exclusive original jurisdiction over most equity cases. Superior Courts also handle cases involving access to public records.
Superior Courts share jurisdiction with Probate Courts over certain types of trusts and name changes of adults convicted of a misdemeanor or felony. Superior Courts also handle some probate matters related to equity cases.
A Superior Court may have a specialized Gun Court division for gun-related crimes, including criminal gun possession and use of a firearm in a crime.
Superior Courts may have an Adult Drug Court division for eligible criminal cases that involve alcohol or drug-related offenses and other nonviolent offenses when the defendant uses or has a dependency on alcohol or drugs.
Rhode Island District CourtsDistrict Courts have jurisdiction over certain types of civil and criminal cases.
Criminal cases heard by District Courts include misdemeanors when the right to a jury trial has been waived, and municipal ordinance violations.
District Courts have exclusive jurisdiction over most general civil claims for less than less than $5,000, certain landlord-tenant cases and replevin cases with personal property valued at less than $5,000. District Courts share jurisdiction with Superior Courts for most general civil claims for more than $5,000 and less than $10,000. District Courts also handle violations of housing codes, if no Municipal Court has jurisdiction over the violation.
District Courts also handle domestic violence protective orders, involuntary hospitalization and some administrative agency appeals.
District Courts each have a Small Claims Court division for some general civil claims for less than $2,500, exclusive of interest and costs.
A program to provide support for offender veterans is available in District Court. The Veterans Treatment Court can divert veterans diagnosed with trauma related disorders away from incarceration by offering rehabilitative alternatives, including treatment and social services.
Rhode Island Family CourtsFamily Courts have jurisdiction over domestic relations, juvenile matters, some criminal cases and a few types of civil cases.
Domestic Relations cases heard by Family Courts include divorce and legal separation, child custody, child visitation, child support, division of property, alimony and paternity.
Juvenile cases heard by Family Courts include juvenile delinquency, child neglect, child abuse and adoptions of minors.
Criminal cases heard by Family Courts include abandonment, desertion, neglect, threats against immediate family members and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
Family Courts have some jurisdiction over certain administrative agency appeals, including certain income tax setoffs and interception of assets for past due child support. Family Courts also handle civil cases involving the regulation of child care providers and child placing agencies.
Family Courts may have specialized court divisions to handle certain types of cases more efficiently or provide alternatives to the regular adversarial system. These specialized divisions may include Domestic Violence Court, Family Treatment Drug Court, Juvenile Drug Court, Re-entry Court and Truancy Court.
Rhode Island Probate CourtsProbate Courts have jurisdiction over probate matters, including the probate of wills, administration of estates, guardianships, conservatorships, certain matters related to certain trusts, adoptions of adults and name changes. Probate Court has some jurisdiction over equity claims related to probate matters.
Probate Courts share jurisdiction with Superior Courts over cases involving trustees of certain types of trusts, name changes of adults convicted of a misdemeanor or felony, and probate matters related to Superior Court cases.
Rhode Island Municipal CourtsMunicipal Courts handle most municipal ordinance violations.
Cases heard by Municipal Courts include traffic violations, and Municipal Courts have some exclusive jurisdiction over some traffic cases. Municipal Courts will not handle cases that are within the exclusive jurisdiction of a Traffic Tribunal.
Municipal Courts also handle violations of local housing or zoning ordinances, including requests for certain injunctions.
A Municipal Court may be referred to as a Police Court in some town and cities.
Rhode Island Traffic TribunalsTraffic Tribunals have exclusive jurisdiction over most violations of state law related to motor vehicles, littering or traffic offenses.
Traffic Tribunals do not have jurisdiction over certain types of motor vehicle cases, including crimes resulting in death or serious bodily injury, crimes related to driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, crimes related to high-speed attempts to elude law enforcement, crimes related to driving without a valid license and crimes related to possession of stolen vehicles.
Traffic Tribunals have exclusive jurisdiction over violations of city or town traffic ordinances if a Municipal Court does not have jurisdiction.
Traffic Tribunals share jurisdiction over violations of boating and public water ordinances referred by a harbormaster.
Rhode Island Workers' Compensation CourtThe Workers' Compensation Court is a specialized court that handles cases for the entire state from one office location.
The Workers' Compensation Court handles certain types of civil cases, including disputes between employees and employers about workers compensation benefits, the rehabilitation of injured employees and disputes between employers and compensation insurers.
Where to Find Court Cases in Rhode Island
The chart below gives general information on the types of cases heard in each type of Rhode Island court.
|Case Type||Court Type|
|Civil||Superior Courts||District Courts||Family Courts||Probate Courts||Municipal Courts||Traffic Tribunals|
|General Civil - Unlimited|
|General Civil - Limited|
|Foreclosures and Liens|
|Real Estate Title and Boundary|
|Landlord / Tenant|
|Protection, No Contact, and Restraining Orders|
|Administrative Agency Appeals|
|Criminal||Superior Courts||District Courts||Family Courts||Probate Courts||Municipal Courts||Traffic Tribunals|
|Felony Preliminary Hearings|
|Traffic and Infractions|
|Domestic Relations||Superior Courts||District Courts||Family Courts||Probate Courts||Municipal Courts||Traffic Tribunals|
|Child Custody and Visitation|
|Domestic Violence Protection Order|
|Juvenile||Superior Courts||District Courts||Family Courts||Probate Courts||Municipal Courts||Traffic Tribunals|
|Child Abuse and Neglect|
|Termination of Parental Rights|
|Children in Need of Supervision|
|Mental Health||Superior Courts||District Courts||Family Courts||Probate Courts||Municipal Courts||Traffic Tribunals|
|Other Mental Health Cases|
|Probate||Superior Courts||District Courts||Family Courts||Probate Courts||Municipal Courts||Traffic Tribunals|
|Wills & Estates|
|Guardianships and Conservatorships|