Rhode Island State Laws on Optical Images
State Archivist and Records Manager:
R. Gwenn Stearn, State Archivist
& Public Records Administrator
337 Westminister St., Providence RI 02903
401-277-2353 fax: firstname.lastname@example.org
Rhode Island General Laws
Rules of Evidence
Article X Contents of Writings, Recordings and Photographs
destroy, sell, loan, or otherwise dispose of any public record
without the consent of the public records administration program of
the department of administration.
38-1-11. Assistance of the public records administration
program. -- The public records administration program of the
department of administration shall have the right to examine the condition
of public records and shall give advice and assistance to public
officials in the solution of their problems of preserving, creating,
filing, and making available the public records in their custody.
When requested by the program, public officials shall assist the pro-
gram in the preparation of records control schedules of public records
in their custody approved by the head of the agency having custody
of the records. Upon review and approval of the schedules by the
program, the program shall, subject to the availability of necessary
space, staff, and other facilities for those purposes, make available
space in its record center for the filing of semi-current records so
scheduled and in its public records repository for non-current records
of permanent value and shall render such other assistance as
needed, including the microfilming of records so scheduled.
NOTES TO DECISIONS
This section confers jurisdiction upon the
superior court to determine whether the
record or any part thereof may be withheld
by a public body, and also authorizes the imposition
of a civil fine against a public body
found to have committed a willful violation of
the chaptter. Rhode Island Fed'n of Teachers
v. Sundlun, 59~ A.2d 799 (R.I. 1991).
38-2-10. Burden of proof
NOTES TO DECISIONS
This section imposes the burden of proof
upon the public body to demonstrate that the
record in dispute can be properly withheld
from public inspection. No portion of the statue
purports to provide a remedy for a person
or an entity that seeks to prevent disclosure.
Rhode Island Fed'n of Teachers v. Sundlun,
595 A.2d 799 (R.I. 1991);
38-2-14. Financial information relating to settlement of legal
claims. -- Records reflecting the financial settlement by public
bodies of any legal claims against a governmental entity shall be
deemed public records.
PUBLIC RECORDS ADMINISTRATION
38-3-2. Definitions. 38-3-4. Duties of administrator.
38-3-3. Public records administration pro-
38-3-2. Definitions. -- For the purpose of this chapter:
(1) "Program" shall mean the public records administration pro-
gram of the secretary of state.
(2) "Public record" or "public records" shall mean all documents,
papers, letters, maps, books, tapes, photographs, films, sound record-
ings, or other material regardless of physical form or characteristics
made or received pursuant to law or ordinance or in connection with
the transaction of official business by any agency.
(3) "Agency" or "public body" shall mean any executive, legisla-
tive, judicial, regulatory, administrative body of the state or any
political subdivision thereof; including, but not limited to any de-
partment, division, agency, commission, board, office, bureau, au-
thority, any school, fire, or water district, or other agency of state or
local government which exercises governmental functions, or any
other public or private agency, person, partnership, corporation, or
· business entity acting on behalf of any public agency.
(4) "Records control schedule" shall mean the document establish-
ing the official retention, maintenance, and disposal requirements
for a series or type of record based on administrative, legal, fiscal,
and historical values for the scheduled records.
(5) "Records center" shall mean an establishment maintained by
the program for the storage, processing, servicing, and security of
public records that must be retained for varying periods of time but
need not be retained in an agency's office equipment or space.
(6) "Public records repository" shall mean the establishment
maintained by the program for preservation of those public records
determined by the program to have permanent value warranting
their continued preservation and which has been accepted by the
program for transfer to its custody.
38-3-3. Public records administration program. -- (1) The
public records administration program shall be organized as deemed
necessary by the secretary of state for the proper discharge of its
duties and responsibilities under this chapter. All personnel, fur-
nishings, equipment, finances, property, and contractual arrange-
ments of the public records administration, shall hereby be the re-
sponsibility of the secretary of state.
(2) There shall be a public records advisory commission consisting
of seventeen (17) members, one of whom shall be a member of the
senate chosen by the senate majority leader, one of whom shall be a
member of the house of representatives chosen by the speaker of the
house, six (6) of whom shall be chosen by the governor, and seven (7)
of whom shall be chosen by the secretary of state. The secretary of
state or designee shall serve as a permanent member of the commis-
sion. The state archivist shall serve as a permanent member of the
commission. The appointments shall consist of persons who are qual-
ified by training and experience and possessed of proven interest in
historical records and public records management. In the first in-
stance five (5) members shall be appointed for a one year term, two
(2) by the governor and three (3) by the secretary of state; five (5)
members shall be appointed for a two (2) year term, one by the
speaker of the house, one by the senate majority leader, two (2) by
the governor, and one by the secretary of state; five (5) members
shall be appointed for a three (3) year term, two (2) by the governor,
and three (3) by the secretary of state. The members shall hold office
until the first day of July 1, in the years in which their respective
terms end. Thereafter, prior to July 1, successors shall be appointed
to the commission to the members of the commission whose terms
expired. Vacancy of a member shall be filled by appointment by the
corresponding authority for the remainder of the unexpired terms.
(3) The secretary of state or designee shall serve as the chairper-
son of the commission. The state archivist or designee shall serve as
the secretary of the commission, with voting rights.
38-3-5.1. Reproduction of public records -- Destruction of
original records. -- If any department or agency of government, in
the regular course of business or activity, has kept or recorded any
memorandum, writing, state tax returns, report, application, pay-
ment, entry, print, representation or combination thereof, or any act,
transaction, occurrence, or event, and, in the regular course of busi-
ness, has caused any or all of the same to be recorded, copied, or
reproduced by a photographic, photostatic, microfilm, micro-card,
optical disk, miniature photographic, or other process which accu-
rately reproduces or forms a durable medium for reproducing the
original, the original may be destroyed in the regular course of busi-
ness, provided the process meets standards established by the public
records administration, and provided all the provisions of § 38-3-6
concerning disposal of public records are fulfilled. The reproduction,
when satisfactorily identified, shall be admissible in evidence as the
original in any judicial or administrative proceeding whether or not
the original exists or is available, and an enlargement or facsimile of
the reproduction shall be likewise admissible in evidence if the origi-
nal is in existence and available for inspection under the direction of
the court. The introduction of a reproduced record, enlargement, or
facsimile into evidence shall not preclude the admission into evi-
dence of the original. This section shall not be construed to exclude
from introduction into evidence any document or copy thereof which
is otherwise admissible under the Rhode Island general laws, as
38-3-6. Public records custody and disposal. -- (1) Each
agency shall prepare and submit to the program, in accordance with
the rules and regulations of the program, record control schedules
for all public records in the custody of the agency.
(2) The offices of the attorney general and the auditor general will
advise the program on the legal and fiscal values of records covered
by proposed records control schedules.
(3) Those records which are determined by an agency not to be
needed in the transaction of current business but which, for legal or
fiscal requirements, must be retained for specific time periods be-
yond administrative needs, shall be sent to the records center. The
records will be kept in the center until time for disposition as pro-
vided in record control schedules.
(4) Public records possessing permanent value as determined by
approved records control schedules shall be transferred to the public
records repository when no longer needed by an agency in transac-
tion of current business.
(5) Title to any record placed in the records center shall remain in
the agency placing the record in the center.
(6) Title to any record transferred to the public records repository,
as authorized in this chapter, shall be vested in the program.
(7) The program shall preserve and administer such public
records as shall be transferred to its custody according to approved
conservation and security practices, and to permit them to be in-
spected, examined, and copied at reasonable times and under super-
vision of the program; provided that any record placed in keeping of
the program under special terms or conditions restricting their use
shall be made available only in accordance with the terms and condi-
(8) Provide a public research room where, upon policies estab-
lished by the program, the records in the public records repository
may be studied.
(9) The program may make certified copies under seal of any
records transferred to it upon the application of any person, and the
certificates, signed by the administrator or his or her designee, shall
have the same force and effect as if made by the agency from which
the records were received. The program may charge a reasonable fee
for this service.
(10) No public record shall be destroyed or otherwise disposed of
by any agency without prior notice to the program.
(11) The program shall adopt reasonable rules and regulations not
inconsistent with this chapter relating to the destruction and dis-
posal of records. The rules and regulations shall provide but not be
(a) Procedures for preparing and submitting record control sched-
ules to the program.
(b) Procedures for the physical destruction or other disposal of
(c) Standards for the reproduction of records for security or with a
view to the disposal of the original record. (12) The program shall:
(a) Establish safeguards against unauthorized or unlawful re-
moval or loss of records.
(b) Initiate appropriate action to recover records removed unlaw-
fully or without authorization.
(13) The program may prepare and publish handbooks, guides,
indexes, and other literature directed toward encouraging the man-
agement, preservation, and uses of the state's public records re-
38-3-7. Agency responsibilities. -- It shall be the duty of each
(1) Cooperate with the program in complying with the provisions
of this chapter.
(2) Establish and maintain an active and continuous program for
the economical and efficient management of public records.
42-8.1-13. Legal status of reproductions.- (1) When any copy
or reproduction, furnished under the terms hereof, is authenticated
by the official seal and certified by the state archivist, the copy or
reproduction shall be admitted in evidence equally with the original
from which it was made.
(2) The state archivist or any other public officer of the state or
any city, municipality, district, or legal subdivision thereof may
cause any or all public records, papers, or documents kept by him or
her to be photographed, microphotographed, or reproduced on film or
non-erasable optical disc or through other processes which accu-
rately reproduce or form a durable medium for reproducing and pre-
serving the original records. These reproduction processes shall com-
ply with the standards approved for the reproduction of permanent
records under § 38-3-5.1. These photographs, microphotographs,
photographic films, optical discs or other reproductions shall be
deemed to be original records for all purposes including introduc-
tions in evidence in all courts or administrative agencies. A tran-
script, exemplification, or certified copy thereof, for all purposes re-
cited in this section, shall be deemed to be a transcript, exemplifica-
tion, or certified copy of the original.
(3) Whenever these photographs, microphotographs, or reproduc-
tions on film or non-erasable optical discs, or other reproductions
properly certified, are placed in conveniently accessible files and
provisions made for preserving, examining, and using the same, any
public officer may cause the original records from which the repro-
ductions have been made, or any part thereof, to be disposed of ac-
cording to methods prescribed by §§ 38-1-10 and 38-3-6. These cop-
ies shall be certified by their custodian as true copies of the originals
before the originals are destroyed or lost, and the copies so certified
shall have the same force and effect as the originals, provided the
copies meet the standards established under § 42-8-4. Copies of pub-
lic records transferred from the office of their origin to the division,
when certified by the state archivist or the deputy archivist, shall
have the same legal force and effect as if certified by the original
custodian of the records.
42-8.1-17. Duties of agencies. -- It shall be the duty of each
agency of the state and political subdivision thereof to:
(1) Cause to be made and preserved records containing adequate
and proper documentation of the organization, functions, policies,
decisions, procedures, and essential transactions of the agency and
designed to furnish the information necessary to protect the legal
rights of the government and of the persons directly affected by
(2) Cooperate fully with the division in complying with the provisions
of this chapter;
CONTENTS OF WRITINGS, RECORDINGS
Rule !001. Definitions. -- For purposes of this article the fol.
lowing definitions are applicable:
(1) Writings and Recordings. "Writings" and '"recordings" consist
of letters, words, or numbers, or their equivalent, set down by hand-
writing, typewriting, printing, photostating, photographing, magnetic
impulse, mechanical or electronic recording, or other form of
(2) Photographs. "Photographs" include still photographs, X-ray
films, video tapes, and motion pictures.
(3) Original, An "original" of a writing or recording is the writing
or recording itself or any counterpart intended to have the same
effect by a person executing or issuing it. An "original" of a photo-
graph includes the negative or any print therefrom. If data are
stored in a computer or similar device, any printout or other output
readable by sight, shown to reflect the data accurately, is an "original"
(4) Duplicate. A "duplicate" is a counterpart produced by the same
.impression as the original, or from the same matrix, or by means of
photography, including enlargements and miniatures, or by mechanical
or electronic re-recording, or by chemical reproduction or by
other equivalent techniques which accurately reproduce the original.
Page last updated November 10, 2000