Archive Index Sytstems



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: 401-277-3199


Rhode Island General Laws

Rules of Evidence

Article X Contents of Writings, Recordings and Photographs

38-1-10. Disposal of records. -- No public official may mutilate, 

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.


1. In General.

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

1. In General.

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.





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

limited to:

(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

agency to:

(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

agency's activities;

(2) Cooperate fully with the division in complying with the provisions

of this chapter;




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

data compilation.

(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.

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Page last updated November 10, 2000