Rhode Island residents are subject to Rhode Island state and U.S. federal laws. Federal laws apply in Rhode Island as they do across all 50 states. In addition to the U.S. Constitution, which is the supreme law of the U.S., federal laws include statutes that are periodically codified in the U.S. Code. Federal laws also include decisions by courts that interpret federal laws. Finally, federal laws include regulations issued by federal administrative agencies to implement federal laws. You can explore federal laws and related resources by visiting the federal law section of the Justia site.
The state of Rhode Island also has its own state laws. Rhode Island state laws include the Rhode Island Constitution, laws passed by the Rhode Island legislature and periodically codified in the Rhode Island General Laws, and decisions by courts that interpret Rhode Island laws.
Ratified in 1986, the Rhode Island Constitution is the newest state constitution in the U.S. While Rhode Island was the first American colony to renounce allegiance to the British monarchy, it did not adopt a state constitution until 1842. The Constitution provides for legislatively referred amendments and constitutional conventions. Article XIV allows an amendment proposed in the legislature to appear on a ballot following a majority vote in each chamber of the legislature. Similarly, a proposal for a constitutional convention will appear on a ballot if a majority of each chamber votes in its favor. Furthermore, a proposal for a constitutional convention must appear on a ballot at intervals no greater than 10 years.
The Rhode Island General Laws contain the laws passed by the Rhode Island legislature. These laws and the provisions of the Rhode Island Constitution are often interpreted by the Rhode Island Supreme Court, which is the only appellate court in the state. The federal Rhode Island District Court also issues decisions that may affect Rhode Island residents. The First Circuit Court of Appeals holds the authority to review decisions by the Rhode Island District Court. Sometimes the U.S. Supreme Court may review a case that has been appealed from the First Circuit or from the Rhode Island Supreme Court.