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Rhode Island

Stalking Order of Protection


Also See: Rhode Island Stalking Statute

Also See: Rhode Island Civil Stalking Law

§ 15-15-1 Civil Protection Order

§ 15-15-1. Definitions 

The following words as used in this chapter have the following meanings:

(1) "Courts" means the family court.

(2) "Domestic abuse" means the occurrence of one or more of the following acts between present or former family members, parents, stepparents, or persons who are or have been in a substantive dating or engagement relationship within the past one year in which at least one of the persons is a minor:

(i) Attempting to cause or causing physical harm;

(ii) Placing another in fear of imminent serious physical harm; or

(iii) Causing another to engage involuntarily in sexual relations by force, threat of force, or duress.

(iv) Stalking or cyberstalking.

(3) "Parents" mean persons who together are the legal parents of one or more children, regardless of their marital status or whether they have lived together at any time.

(4) "Present or former family member" means the spouse, former spouse, minor children, stepchildren, or persons who are related by blood or marriage.

(5) "Substantive dating" or "engagement relationship" means a significant and personal/intimate relationship which shall be adjudged by the court's consideration by the following factors:

(i) The length of time of the relationship;

(ii) The type of relationship; and

(iii) The frequency of interaction between the parties.

(6) "Stalking" means harassing another person or willfully, maliciously and repeatedly following another person with the intent to place that person in reasonable fear of bodily injury;

(7) "Cyberstalking" means transmitting any communication by computer to any person or causing any person to be contacted for the sole purpose of harassing that person or his or her family;

(8) "Harassing" means following a knowing and willful course of conduct directed at a specific person with the intent to seriously alarm, annoy, or bother the person, and which serves no legitimate purpose. The course of conduct must be such as would cause a reasonable person to suffer substantial emotional distress, or be in fear of bodily injury;

(9) "Course of conduct" means a pattern of conduct composed of a series of acts over a period of time, evidencing a continuity of purpose. Constitutionally protected activity is not included within the meaning of "course of conduct."

§ 15-15-2. Filing of complaint 

(a) Proceedings under this chapter shall be filed, heard, and determined in the family court of the county in which the plaintiff resides and shall be independent of divorce proceedings.

(b) Any proceedings under this chapter shall not preclude any other available civil or criminal remedies.

(c) A party filing a complaint under this chapter may do so without payment of any filing fee, but shall be required to disclose any prior or pending actions for divorce or separation.

(d) If the plaintiff has left the residence or household to avoid abuse, he or she may bring the action in the court of previous residence or the court of present residence. There shall be no minimum residence requirements for the bringing of an action under this chapter.

§ 15-15-3. Protective orders -- Penalty -- Jurisdiction 

(a) A person suffering from domestic abuse may file a complaint in the family court requesting any order which will protect and support her or him from abuse including, but not limited, to the following:

(1) Ordering that the defendant be restrained and enjoined from contacting, assaulting, molesting, or interfering with the plaintiff at home, on the street, or elsewhere, whether the defendant is an adult or a minor;

(2) Ordering the defendant to vacate the household immediately;

(3) Awarding the plaintiff custody of the minor children of the parties, if any;

(4) After notice to the respondent and a hearing, ordering either party to make payments for the support of a minor child or children of the parties as required by law for a period not to exceed ninety (90) days, unless the child support order is for a child or children receiving public assistance pursuant to chapter 5.1 of title 40. In these cases, legal counsel for the division of taxation, child support enforcement, shall be notified as a party in interest to appear for the purpose of establishing a child support order under a new or existing docket number previously assigned to the parties and not under the protective docket number. The child support order shall remain in effect until the court modifies or suspends the order.

(5) After notice to the respondent and a hearing, the court in addition to any other restrictions, may order the defendant to surrender physical possession of all firearms in his or her possession, care, custody or control.

(b) Any individual who accepts physical possession of a firearm pursuant to this section is prohibited from returning any firearm to any defendant under a restraining order during the existence of the restraining order. Violation of this provision shall subject both the defendant and the individual responsible for the return of the firearm to the defendant, to being found in contempt of court.

(c) The Family Court shall provide a notice on all forms requesting a protective order that, at the hearing for a protective order, the defendant may be ordered to surrender physical possession or control of any firearms and not to purchase or receive or attempt to purchase or receive any firearms for a period not to exceed the duration of the restraining order.

(d) If the defendant is present in court at a duly noticed hearing, the court may order the defendant to physically surrender any firearm in that person's immediate possession or control, or subject to that person's immediate physical possession or control, within twenty-four (24) hours of the order, by surrendering the possession of the firearm(s) to the control of any individual not legally prohibited from possessing a firearm(s) who is not related to the defendant by blood, marriage, or relationship as defined by § 15-15-1(3), (4), or (5), of the Rhode Island general laws, or by surrendering any firearm(s) to the Rhode Island State Police or local police department, or by surrendering the firearm(s) to a licensed gun dealer. If the defendant is not present at the hearing, the defendant shall surrender possession of the firearm(s) within forty-eight (48) hours after being served with the order. A person ordered to surrender possession of any firearm(s) pursuant to this subsection shall file with the court a receipt showing the firearm(s) was either legally transferred to an individual not legally prohibited from possessing a firearm who is not related to the defendant by blood, marriage, or relationship as defined by § 15-15-1(3), (4), or (5) of the Rhode Island general laws or surrender to a licensed gun dealer within seventy-two (72) hours after receiving the order. Any defendant transporting a firearm to surrender in accordance with the above shall not be liable to prosecution under § 11-47-8.

(e) Nothing in this section shall limit a defendant's right under existing law to petition the court at a later date for modification of the order.

(f) The prohibition against possessing a firearm(s) due solely to the existence of a domestic violence restraining order issued under this section shall not apply with respect to sworn peace officers as defined in § 12-7-21 and active members of military service including members of the reserve components thereof, who are required by law or departmental policy to carry departmental firearms while on duty or any person who is required by their employment to carry a firearm in the performance of their duties. Any individual exempted pursuant to this exception may possess a firearm only during the course of their employment. Any firearm required for employment must be stored at the place of employment when not being possessed for employment use; all other firearm(s) must be surrendered in accordance with § 15-15-3.

(g) Upon motion by the plaintiff, his or her address shall be released only at the discretion of the family court judge.


(1) Any violation of the protective orders in subsection (a) of this section shall subject the defendant to being found in contempt of court.

(2) The contempt order shall not be exclusive and shall not preclude any other available civil or criminal remedies. Any relief granted by the court shall be for a fixed period of time not to exceed three (3) years, at the expiration of which time the court may extend any order, upon motion of the plaintiff, for any additional time, that it deems necessary to protect the plaintiff from abuse. The court may modify its order at any time upon motion of either party.

(1) Any violation of a protective order under this chapter of which the defendant has actual notice shall be a misdemeanor which shall be punished by a fine of no more than one thousand dollars ($ 1,000) or by imprisonment for not more than one year, or both.

(2) The penalties for violation of this section shall also include the penalties as provided by § 12-29-5.

(j) Actual notice means that the defendant has received a copy of the order by service or by being handed a copy of the order by a police officer pursuant to § 15-15-5(d).

(1) The district court shall have criminal jurisdiction over all adult violations of this chapter.

(2) The family court shall have jurisdiction over all juvenile violations of this chapter.

§ 15-15-4. Temporary orders -- Ex parte proceedings 


(1) Upon the filing of a complaint under this chapter, the court may enter any temporary orders that it deems necessary to protect the plaintiff from abuse, including relief as provided in chapter 5 of this title.

(2) If it clearly appears from specific facts shown by affidavit or by the verified complaint that immediate and irreparable injury, loss, or damage will result to the plaintiff before notice can be served and a hearing held on the matter, the court may enter any temporary order without notice that it deems necessary to protect the plaintiff. Every order granted without notice shall expire by its terms within any time after entry, not to exceed twenty-one (21) days, that the court fixes, unless within the time fixed the order, by consent or for good cause shown and after hearing of argument by the parties or counsel, is extended for an additional period. In case a temporary order is granted without notice, the matter shall be set down for a hearing within a reasonable time and may be given precedence of all matters except older matters of the same character, and when the matter comes on for a hearing, the party who obtained the temporary order shall proceed with the complaint for an order pursuant to § 15-15-3 and, if he or she does not do so, the court shall dissolve the temporary order.


(1) When the court is unavailable after the close of business, a family court judge may grant relief to the plaintiff as provided in this chapter. At the discretion of the judge, the relief may be granted and communicated by telephone to an officer of the appropriate law enforcement agency who shall record the order on a form of order promulgated for such use by the chief judge of the family court and shall deliver a copy of the order on the next court day to the clerk of the court.

(2) In addition, when there is no family court in session at a location when a division of the district court is in session, the district court judge at the division is authorized to grant relief to the plaintiff under this chapter upon cause shown in an ex parte proceeding.

(3) No temporary order shall be granted pursuant to the provisions of subdivision (1) of this subsection unless it clearly appears from specific facts shown in plaintiff 's written statement that immediate and irreparable injury, loss, or damage will result to the plaintiff before notice can be served and a hearing held on the matter.

(4) Any temporary order granted pursuant to the provisions of subdivision (1) of this subsection expires at close of the next business day unless a longer time is granted by the family court judge.

(c) Any order issued under this section and any documentation in support of it shall be filed immediately with the clerk of the family court. Filing shall have the effect of commencing proceedings under this chapter and invoking the other provisions of this chapter, but shall not be deemed necessary for an emergency order issued under this chapter to take effect.

(d) The clerk of the family court shall have a certified copy of any order issued under this chapter forwarded immediately to the law enforcement agency designated by the plaintiff. The clerk shall also provide the plaintiff with two (2) certified copies of any order issued under this chapter.

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