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State LawsRhode Island

Rhode Island Background Checks

A guide to Rhode Island background checks

Rhode Island background checks can help employers learn more about a job candidate or prospective volunteer’s criminal history, driving records, and past employment to offer insight into a candidate’s experience and qualifications. However, employers must comply with federal, state, and local regulations that impact how and when background checks may be conducted. Here’s what you need to know about Rhode Island background checks.

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What Is A Rhode Island Background Check?

A Rhode Island background check searches public records, databases, and other sources for information about a candidate’s history, professional qualifications, and eligibility for a job or volunteer position. Employers may choose to conduct comprehensive background checks to fit their background check policy.

By law, the state of Rhode Island requires a criminal history screening for a number of positions, including nurses, childcare workers, church volunteers, foster care parents, and private security personnel. Here’s a quick table showing of some of the positions that require pre-employment background checks in Rhode Island:

Job CategoryTo Whom It AppliesRequired Background Check(s)
Childcare workersAll job applicants seeking employment with childcare providers licensed by the Rhode Island Department of Human ServicesPre-employment background checks including national Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) criminal history check; Bureau of Criminal Investigations (BCI) Rhode Island criminal background check; Rhode Island Child Abuse and Neglect Registry (from the Department of Children, Youth, and Families); interstate child abuse and neglect registry; state and national sex offender registries
CaregiversCaregivers at nursing facilities, home nursing-care agencies, hospice, or home care providers who have direct contact with patients and residents, and may work without other employees presentNational criminal records check that includes fingerprints submitted to the FBI, to be conducted prior to employment or within one week of beginning work
State positions with access to federal tax returnsApplicants to positions with state agencies that involve working with federal tax return informationNational and state criminal background checks conducted prior to employment and at least every ten years thereafter
FirefightersAny person seeking employment as a firefighter with any city or town in Rhode IslandNational and state criminal background checks conducted prior to or within one week of employment 
School employees and volunteersAll applicants seeking employment at a public or private school School volunteers who may have direct and unmonitored contact with children or studentsJob applicants are required to undergo national and state criminal background checks School volunteers must submit to state criminal background checks

Rhode Island Background Check Laws

Rhode Island background check laws can impact how and when employers conduct pre-employment background screening, and what information they may consider during a background check. Rhode Island has a statewide ban-the-box law that applies to both public and private sector employees. Additional state laws include provisions relating to expunged criminal records, social media accounts, wage history, and credit reports.

In addition to state laws, the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) applies to background checks conducted by consumer reporting agencies (CRAs), like GoodHire. To avoid legal liability, employers may want to comply with the strictest laws and regulations.


This state law prohibits both public and private employers (with more than four employees) in Rhode Island from asking whether a candidate has ever been arrested, charged with, or convicted of a crime on a job application. The law makes an exception for positions in law enforcement or where a past conviction would be disqualifying: for example, jobs that require a fidelity bond. Employers may inquire about a candidate’s past criminal convictions during a first interview. However, employers may not ask about arrests that did not result in conviction at any point.

Expunged Records

Under R.I. Gen L § 12-1.3-4, candidates who have had criminal records legally expunged in Rhode Island can state to a prospective employer that they have not been convicted of an offense, unless this information is required as part of an application for a position in law enforcement, childcare, teaching, or coaching. With similar exceptions, custodians of these records may not disclose expunged information. Agencies reporting criminal history information should not report expunged records.

Social Media Access

Under R.I. Gen L § 28-56-2, employers may not require, coerce, or request a job applicant to disclose their social media passwords or other access information. Employers are also prohibited from asking a candidate to access social media accounts in their presence. 

Wage History

Using a person’s past wages to set their wages on a new job can help to perpetuate wage inequality. To encourage pay equity, R.I. Gen. Laws § 28-6-22 prohibits employers from inquiring about a candidate’s prior wage history or using it as a determining factor when deciding whether to hire or what to pay. 

Credit Reports

Under R.I. Gen. Laws § 6-13.1-21, employers must inform candidates that a credit report may be requested in connection with their application. Employers must advise candidates of adverse action taken as a result of information in a credit report, and should disclose the name and address of the credit bureau making the report.

Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)

Employers that partner with a CRA to conduct background checks must follow the guidelines outlined in the FCRA. To comply with this federal law, you must provide candidates with written notice of your intent to conduct a background check and obtain written consent from the candidate before proceeding. If you decide not to hire a candidate based on information contained in a background screening report, you must also follow the adverse action process. 

What Shows Up On A Rhode Island Background Check?

What shows up on a Rhode Island background check depends on the types of screenings you choose to conduct. Requirements may vary depending on an employer’s background check policy, the industry, and the position involved. Here are common background checks for employment and what they may show:

  • Criminal background checks may show felony and misdemeanor convictions, pending cases, and history of incarceration as an adult. 
  • Civil court searches show a candidate’s non-criminal court history, which may include bankruptcies, liens, judgments, tax disputes, and violations of federal regulations or civil rights. 
  • Motor vehicle records (MVRs) show license status and type, traffic violations, license suspensions, accident history, and driving related convictions such as DUIs. 
  • Employment verification reports a candidate’s past employers, job titles, and dates of employment.
  • Credit checks report debt-to-income ratio, past bankruptcies, individual credit and payment history, and accounts in collections.

What Disqualifies A Candidate On A Rhode Island Background Check?

A candidate may be disqualified during the hiring process, depending on the role in question and the employer’s background check policy. There is generally no law about what is considered a failed Rhode Island criminal background check for employment, but common results that may require further review include: 

  • Certain criminal convictions may be disqualifying, depending on the employer’s policies, the type of position, and the seriousness, recency, and relevance of the conviction. Convictions for certain crimes may cause a candidate to be ineligible by law. For example, licensed nursing care workers in Rhode Island may not have convictions for murder, patient abuse, or arson.
  • A history of moving violations, accidents, or DUIs may disqualify a candidate for a job that involves driving, including commercial driving positions regulated by the US Department of Transportation. 
  • A positive drug test may be disqualifying for safety-sensitive positions, or if an employer maintains a drug-free workplace. As an example, testing positive in a pre-employment drug test could disqualify a candidate for a position in Rhode Island law enforcement.

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How Long Does A RI Background Check Take?

Turnaround times for a RI background check depend on the type of the search and who is conducting it. Employers who choose to conduct background checks on their own may find it takes a significant amount of time to navigate public record systems and manually review the case information. 

For example, state criminal background checks and national background checks mailed to the Rhode Island Attorney General’s office take seven days to process. Members of the public, including employers, may search the Rhode Island Judiciary public access portal to see if records exist, but may have to visit the appropriate courthouse in person to obtain copies of full case records. This can be a time-consuming process for HR teams.

Information that must be checked manually, such as employment and education verifications, can also be time-consuming as team members reach out to previous employers and academic institutions and wait for a response. 

Partnering with a qualified CRA, like GoodHire, can reduce the time burden that’s placed on you and your team. Often, working with a CRA can improve turnaround times as well. GoodHire has access to more than 2,100 databases and more than a billion digitized records. Database searches like national criminal background screenings are often returned in minutes. 

How Far Back Does A Background Check Go In Rhode Island?

How far back a Rhode Island background check goes depends on the type of screening and who is conducting the search. In some cases, federal, state, and local laws may impact how far back an employer can search, or how long records are available.

Some states restrict the lookback period of pre-employment background checks; Rhode Island does not. However, certain Rhode Island state laws may impact the results being reported. For example, some driving violations in Rhode Island may be dismissed after three or five years which may impact what is shown on a candidate’s motor vehicle record.

Employers that partner with a CRA to conduct background checks must comply with the federal FCRA which limits the reporting of non-conviction information to seven years, including arrests, civil judgments, liens, and credit reports. Bankruptcies may be reported for up to 10 years. Criminal convictions may be reported indefinitely. These regulations may not apply if a position pays a salary of $75,000 or more.

How To Get A Background Check in RI

Employers can choose to conduct their own RI background checks or work with a qualified background check provider. Some pre-employment background screening may be manageable by HR team members, but many screenings require quite a bit of legwork to complete. 

Employers may conduct a search for Rhode Island court records using the online Rhode Island Judiciary public portal. Rhode Island state criminal history reports are also available from the Rhode Island Attorney General’s office, though these do not include out-of-state or federal records. Employers must provide a notarized release form signed by the candidate along with a photocopy of the candidate’s photo ID. Report requests may be made by mail or in person.

The Office of the Attorney General also handles fingerprint-based national background checks by the FBI. Candidates can visit the Attorney General’s office in person for fingerprinting and processing of the report request.

Employers that need access to multiple records may want to open a subscription account with the DMV to facilitate processing and payment of driving record checks, or work directly with a background check provider.

Working with a qualified CRA, like GoodHire, can simplify the process. GoodHire offers customizable background check packages that can include comprehensive criminal background checks, driving records, credit checks, employment verification, drug testing, and more. Fast turnaround times, accurate results, and user-friendly workflows save time and help support compliance.

How Much Does A Background Check Cost In Rhode Island?

The cost of a Rhode Island background check can vary depending on the type and number of searches required, and whether you choose to conduct your own background searches or partner with a qualified CRA, like GoodHire. 

Employers who choose to search public records themselves may encounter various fees and expenses. For example, a state of Rhode Island criminal background check costs $5 from the Rhode Island state police and national fingerprint-based background checks cost $45. A DMV subscription that allows employers to search driver’s license history records costs $100, plus $21 per record searched. Searching public court records is free (except for per-page copy costs of up to 20 cents). However, accessing full case records in Rhode Island often means visiting a courthouse in person during designated hours and using a public computer terminal. If you consider the cost of staff time, even a “free” search costs money.

Partnering with a CRA, like GoodHire, is often more cost-effective when you factor in time savings for your hiring team and packages with multiple screenings. Packages with GoodHire, now a Checkr company, start at $29.99, and can be customized to fit a range of hiring needs.

County Resources

Rhode Island’s five counties define the state’s geography but don’t have functioning county governments. However, Rhode Island is divided into 39 municipalities each having its own form of local government. Searching public information, including criminal history and civil court records, is typically done at either the state or municipal level.Here are Rhode Island’s five counties, with information for public records in the county and in each county’s most populous city.

Bristol County

With 50,360 residents, Bristol County is the least populous county in Rhode Island, and the third smallest county by size in the US. The town of Bristol is a deepwater seaport with a history of maritime industry and shipbuilding. Today, Bristol County’s scenic and historic coastal towns often serve as extended suburbs of nearby Providence.

Public Information & Records:

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Kent County

Centrally-located Kent County has a population of 171,275. It adjoins the greater Providence area but is also only an hour south of Boston. The T.F. Green International Airport in Warwick serves as an alternative for Boston travelers and connects via Boston’s commuter train system. 

Public Information & Records

Newport County

Newport County isn’t the largest county in the state, but it may be the most distinctive. Famous for the Newport Jazz Festival, the city of Newport is also home to several lovingly preserved Gilded Age mansions that were the summer homes of 19th-century industrialists. The county’s modern economy includes a substantial military and defense industry. Navy Station Newport serves as a center for education, training, and research programs, including the Naval Underwater Warfare Center, a “superlab” for undersea warfare research.

Public Information & Records

Providence County

Providence is Rhode Island’s capital and its largest city, home to 189,563 of the county’s 657,288 residents. Providence is home to two world-renowned educational institutions: Ivy League Brown University and the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). Top industries for residents of Providence County are education, healthcare, and retail.

Public Information & Records 

A local ban-the-box law applies to public sector employees within the city government of Providence.

Washington County

Washington County is the third-most populous in the state with 130,330 residents, but its coastal towns also host thousands of visitors from New York City and Boston, who come to relax and enjoy the beaches of Block Island and Narragansett. Tourism plays a major role in Washington County’s economy, while healthcare, education, and manufacturing are other leading industries.

Public Information & Records 

Get A Rhode Island Background Check With GoodHire

Pre-employment background checks can provide employers with information they need to comply with federal, state, and local hiring requirements while also providing a fuller picture of a candidate’s qualifications and experience. But conducting a comprehensive and compliant Rhode Island background check can be a complex process for internal hiring teams.

Partnering with a CRA, like GoodHire, can streamline the background screening process. GoodHire’s offer 100+ screening options with fast turnaround times, automated tools, and customizable packages, help save time and improve efficiency in your hiring process. Get started with Rhode Island background checks today.

Get A Rhode Island Background Check Today

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GoodHire's background check platform makes it easy to order reports and review results.

The resources provided here are for educational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. We advise you to consult your own counsel if you have legal questions related to your specific practices and compliance with applicable laws.