If I don’t have a hard copy of my out-of-state order, how can law enforcement enforce it?
To enforce an out-of-state order, law enforcement typically may rely on the National Crime Information Center Protection Order File (NCIC-POF). The NCIC-POF is a nationwide, electronic database that contains information about orders of protection that were issued in each state and territory in the U.S. The Protection Order File (POF) contains court orders that are issued to prevent acts of domestic violence, or to prevent someone from stalking, intimidating, or harassing another person. It contains orders issued by both civil and criminal state courts. The types of protection orders issued and the information contained in them vary from state to state.1
There is no way for the general public to access the NCIC-POF. That means you cannot confirm a protection order is in the registry or add a protection order to the registry without the help of a government agency that has access to it.
Typically, the state police or criminal justice agency in the state has the responsibility of reporting protection orders to NCIC. However, in some cases, the courts have taken on that role and they manage the protection order reporting process.2 NCIC–POF is used by law enforcement agencies when they need to verify and enforce an out-of-state protection order. It is managed by the FBI and state law enforcement officials.
However, not all states routinely enter protection orders into the NCIC. Instead, some states may enter the orders only in their own state protection order registry, which would not be accessible to law enforcement in other states. According to a 2016 report by the National Center for State Courts, more than 700,000 protection orders that were registered in state protection order databases were not registered in the federal NCIC Protection Order File.2 This means that if a law enforcement officer is trying to enforce a protection order from another state that is missing from the NCIC, the victim would likely need to show the officer a hard copy of the order to get it immediately enforced. If you no longer have a copy of your original order, you may want to contact the court that issued the order to ask them how you can get another copy sent to you.
1 National Center for Protection Orders and Full Faith & Credit
2 See State Progress in Record Reporting for Firearm-Related Background Checks: Protection Order Submissions, prepared by the National Center for State Courts, April 2016
Do I have to register my protection order in Rhode Island in order to get it enforced?
No. Police officers must enforce your protection order whether or not you register it. If it is not registered, you will need to show the officer a copy of your protection order, and you may have to swear in writing that it is still in effect.1
While you do not have to register your protection order in order to get it enforced, one benefit of registration is that you may be able to get your order enforced, even if you are not carrying a copy of the order with you when the police officer arrives at the scene.2 Protection orders that are registered in Rhode Island are kept in RONCO, the Rhode Island Restraining Order/No Contact Order Registry, and Rhode Island police officers should have access to this registry when they come to the scene.
1 RI Gen. Laws § 12-29-1.1(b)
2 RI Gen. Laws § 12-29-1.1(b)
How do I register my protection order in Rhode Island?
You can file your protection order in any superior court, family court or district court by filing a certified copy of the order with the court. The court will make you swear under oath in an affidavit (a written statement) that to the best of your knowledge, the order is presently in effect as written. The order will then be entered into the Rhode Island Restrining Order/No Contact Order (RONCO) database.1
You do not need a lawyer to register your protection order. If you are confused or worried about the process, you can contact a local domestic violence organization in Rhode Island to ask for help from a local advocate. To find a local domestic violence organization in Rhode Island, please go to our RI Links and Resources page.
1 RI Gen. Laws § 12-29-1.1(b)
Will the abuser be notified if I register my protection order?
Under the federal Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which applies to all U.S. states and territories, the court is not permitted to notify the abuser when a protective order has been registered or filed in a new state unless you specifically request that the abuser be notified.1 However, you may wish to confirm that the clerk is aware of this law before registering the order if your address is confidential.
However, remember that there may be a possibility that the abuser could somehow find out what state you have moved to. It is important to continue to safety plan, even if you are no longer in the state where the abuser is living. We have some safety planning tips to get you started on our Safety Tips page. You can also contact a local domestic violence organization to get help in developing a personalized safety plan. You will find contact information for organizations in your area on our RI Advocates and Shelters page.
1 18 USC § 2265(d)
What if I don't register my protection order? Will it be more difficult to have it enforced?
Maybe. If your order is not entered into the National Criminal Information Center (NCIC) database (a national database of protection orders that some states keep records in), and you do not have a copy of your order with you when the police officer arrives, it may be more difficult to have your order enforced because it will be hard for the Rhode Island police officer to make sure that your order is real.
However, if you have a certified copy of your protection order with you, or if it is listed in the NCIC, then it may not matter if your protection order is registered in Rhode Island or not.
If you are unsure about whether registering your order is the right decision for you, you may want to contact a local domestic violence organization in your area. An advocate there can help you decide what the safest plan of action is for you in Rhode Island. To see a list of local domestic violence organizations in Rhode Island, go to our RI Places that Help page.
Does it cost anything to register my protection order?
No. It does not cost anything to register your order.