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Rhode Island Protective Orders Laws

Note: If you or someone you know is the victim of domestic violence, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233), the Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence 24 Hour Helpline at 1-800-494-8100, or your local police department.

Also called orders of protection or restraining orders, protective orders may be put in place by a court upon the request of an individual who feels legitimately threatened by the actions of another person. They are often used to protect domestic violence or stalking victims from their perpetrator. In many cases, protective orders are ordered automatically.

The individual named in a protective order -- such as an alleged stalker or abuser -- is required to keep a certain distance away from the victim (or alleged victim) for a specified period of time, including telephone calls and other forms of unsolicited contact. While restraining orders also may be used to protect celebrities from obsessive fans, uses of them in this way are actually rare.

Rhode Island Protective Order Laws at a Glance

In Rhode Island, orders of protection may last up to three years, but they may be extended. Temporary restraining orders last 21 days, but these may be extended as well. To apply for a temporary restraining order, go to your local state courthouse and fill out the proper paperwork. Paperwork will include a sworn affidavit. You will need to wait for the judge to review and approve the order.

See the Domestic Violence Victim Information (PDF) pamphlet from the Rhode Island Supreme Court for more details.

Additional provisions of Rhode Island's protective orders statute are listed in the chart below. See FindLaw's Domestic Violence section for additional articles and resources.

Code Section

15-15-1, et seq., 12-29-5

Activity Addressed by Order

Orders of protection address many types of activities. The following are examples of the types of activities that orders address:
  • Prohibiting the respondent (the person from whom someone is seeking protection with the order) from making contact with the petitioner (the person seeking protection)
  • Excluding the respondent from a dwelling where the petitioner lives
  • Establishing a temporary custody arrangement
  • Establishing support payment arrangements

Duration of Order

If support payments are part of an order, they may last for a duration of to 90 days. General order: a general order may last for a duration of up to three years. However, these may be extended. Temporary order: a hearing must be held within 15 days. During this time, a temporary order remains in effect.

Penalty for a Violation of Order

A violation of an order is treated as contempt of court. If the defendant has actual notice of the protective order, a violation is treated as a misdemeanor. For a misdemeanor, the defendant faces up to a maximum of one year in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000. Also, the defendant may be required to attend counseling sessions.

Who May Apply for Order

The following are examples of people eligible for orders of protection:
  • Any victim of domestic abuse
  • The spouse, the former spouse, the minor children, or the stepchildren of the defendant
  • Persons filing for orders need not be blood relatives of the defendant
  • Persons filing for orders need not be related by marriage to the defendant
  • Victims of stalking
  • Anyone in a "substantive dating" relationship or "engagement relationship" with the defendant
In determining a "substantive dating "relationship or "engagement relationship," a court will consider the following:
  • The length and the type of the relationship
  • How frequently the parties interact

Can Fees Be Waived?


Order Transmission to Law Enforcement

By the end of the day that the order is issued, the order will be transmitted to the Bureau of Criminal Identification. This pertains to all orders issued by district courts, superior courts, family courts, police department, and bail commissioners. In the order, the following will be listed:
  • Terms of the order
  • Date of issuance
  • Date of the second hearing, if there is a second hearing
  • The parties' dates of birth
  • Expiration date of the order

Civil Liability for Violation of Order

Contempt of court

Note: State laws are not set in stone and may change at any time through the enactment of new legislation, decisions from higher courts, and other means. You may want to contact a Rhode Island criminal defense attorney or family law attorney. You may also want to conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Research the Law

Consider reviewing the following resources for more information about laws in Rhode Island, including those related to orders of protection and domestic violence:

  • At Rhode Island Law, you'll find resources concerning all laws in the state, including those related to orders of protection and domestic violence.
  • At Official State Codes, you'll find links to the official online statutes (laws) in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Rhode Island Protective Order Laws: Related Resources

Consider reviewing the following resources for more information about issues related to orders of protection, as well:

Need More Help? Consider Contacting an Attorney

If you're the victim of domestic violence, it can be frightening to navigate the road to recovery. It can feel overwhelming to pursue an order of protection while handling all the matters related to restoring your safety. Consider speaking with a qualified family law attorney near you for help in all legal matters related to getting a protective order. If you're the subject of a protective order, you'll want to know more about how this will affect your life. Consider speaking with a qualified criminal defense attorney near you.

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