We, the people of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, grateful to Almighty God for the civil and religious liberty which He hath so long permitted us to enjoy, and looking to Him for a blessing upon our endeavors to secure and to transmit the same, unimpaired, to succeeding generations, do ordain and establish this Constitution of government.
DECLARATION OF CERTAIN CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS AND PRINCIPLES
In order effectually to secure the religious and political freedom established by our venerated ancestors, and to preserve the same for our posterity, we do declare that the essential and unquestionable rights and principles hereinafter mentioned shall be established, maintained, and preserved, and shall be of paramount obligation in all legislative, judicial and executive proceedings.
In the words of the Father of his Country, we declare that ‘‘the basis of our political systems is the right of the people to make and alter their constitutions of government; but that the constitution which at any time exists, till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole people, is sacredly obligatory upon all.’’
All free governments are instituted for the protection, safety, and happiness of the people. All laws, therefore, should be made for the good of the whole; and the burdens of the state ought to be fairly distributed among its citizens. No person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law, nor shall any person be denied equal protection of the laws. No otherwise qualified person shall, solely by reason of race, gender or handicap be subject to discrimination by the state, its agents or any person or entity doing business with the state. Nothing in this section shall be construed to grant or secure any right relating to abortion or the funding thereof.
Whereas Almighty God hath created the mind free; and all attempts to influence it by temporal punishments or burdens, or by civil incapacitations, tend to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness; and whereas a principal object of our venerable ancestors, in their migration to this country and their settlement of this state, was, as they expressed it, to hold forth a lively experiment that a flourishing civil state may stand and be best maintained with full liberty in religious concernments; we, therefore, declare that no person shall be compelled to frequent or to support any religious worship, place, or ministry
whatever, except in fulfillment of such person’s voluntary contract; nor enforced, restrained, molested, or burdened in body or goods; nor disqualified from holding any office; nor otherwise suffer on account of such person’s religious belief; and that every person shall be free to worship God according to the dictates of such person’s conscience, and to profess and by argument to maintain such person’s opinion in matters of religion; and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect the civil capacity of any person.
Slavery shall not be permitted in this state.
Every person within this state ought to find a certain remedy, by having recourse to the laws, for all injuries or wrongs which may be received in one’s person, property, or character. Every person ought to obtain right and justice freely, and without purchase, completely and without denial; promptly and without delay; conformably to the laws.
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, papers and possessions, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated; and no warrant shall issue, but on complaint in writing, upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and describing as nearly as may be, the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized.
Except in cases of impeachment, or in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia when in actual service in time of war or public danger, no person shall be held to answer for any offense which is punishable by death or by imprisonment for life unless on presentment or indictment by a grand jury, and no person shall be held to answer for any other felony unless on presentment or indictment by a grand jury or on information in writing signed by the attorney-general or one of the attorney-general’s designated assistants, as the general assembly may provide and in accordance with procedures enacted by the general assembly. The general assembly may authorize the impaneling of grand juries with authority to indict for offenses committed any place within the state and it may provide that more than one grand jury may sit simultaneously within a county. No person shall be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy. Nothing contained in this article shall be construed as in any wise impairing the inherent common law powers of the grand jury.
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel punishments inflicted; and all punishments ought to be proportioned to the offense.
All persons imprisoned ought to be bailed by sufficient surety, unless for offenses punishable by imprisonment for life, or for offenses involving the use or threat of use of a dangerous weapon by one already convicted of such offense or already convicted of an offense punishable by imprisonment for life, or for offenses involving the unlawful sale, distribution, manufacture, delivery, or possession with intent to manufacture, sell, distribute or deliver any controlled substance or by possession of a controlled substance punishable by imprisonment for ten (10) years or more, when the proof of guilt is evident or the presumption great. Nothing in this section shall be construed to confer a right to bail, pending appeal of a conviction. The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in cases of rebellion or invasion, the public safety shall require it; nor ever without the authority of the general assembly.
In all criminal prosecutions, accused persons shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury; to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation, to be confronted with the witnesses against them, to have compulsory process for obtaining them in their favor, to have the assistance of counsel in their defense, and shall be at liberty to speak for themselves; nor shall they be deprived of life, liberty, or property, unless by the judgment of their peers, or the law of the land.
The person of a debtor, when there is not strong presumption of fraud, ought not to be continued in prison, after such person shall have delivered up property for the benefit of said person’s creditors, in such manner as shall be prescribed by law.
No ex post facto law, or law impairing the obligation of contracts, shall be passed.
No person in a court of common law shall be compelled to give self-criminating evidence.
Every person being presumed innocent, until pronounced guilty by the law, no act of severity which is not necessary to secure an accused person shall be permitted.
The right of trial by jury shall remain inviolate. In civil cases the general assembly may fix the size of the petit jury at less than twelve but not less than six.
Private property shall not be taken for public uses, without just compensation. The powers of the state and of its municipalities to regulate and control the use of land and waters in the furtherance of the preservation, regeneration, and restoration of the natural environment, and in furtherance of the protection of the rights of the people to enjoy and freely exercise the rights of fishery and the privileges of the shore, as those rights and duties are set forth in Section 17, shall be an exercise of the police powers of the state, shall be liberally construed, and shall not be deemed to be a public use of private property.
The people shall continue to enjoy and freely exercise all the rights of fishery, and the privileges of the shore, to which they have been heretofore entitled under the charter and usages of this state, including but not limited to fishing from the shore, the gathering of seaweed, leaving the shore to swim in the sea and passage along the shore; and they shall be secure in their rights to the use and enjoyment of the natural resources of the state with due regard for the preservation of their values; and it shall be the duty of the general assembly to provide for the conservation of the air, land, water, plant, animal, mineral and other natural resources of the state, and to adopt all means necessary and proper by law to protect the natural environment of the people of the state by providing adequate resource planning for the control and regulation of the use of the natural resources of the state and for the preservation, regeneration and restoration of the natural environment of the state.
The military shall be held in strict subordination to the civil authority. And the law martial shall be used and exercised in such cases only as occasion shall necessarily require.
No soldier shall be quartered in any house in time of peace, without the consent of the owner; nor, in time of war, but in manner to be prescribed by law.
The liberty of the press being essential to the security of freedom in a state, any person may publish sentiments on any subject, being responsible for the abuse of that liberty; and in all trials for libel, both civil and criminal, the truth, unless published from malicious motives, shall be sufficient defense to the person charged.
The citizens have a right in a peaceable manner to assemble for their common good, and to apply to those invested with the powers of government, for redress of grievances, or for other purposes, by petition, address, or remonstrance. No law abridging the freedom of speech shall be enacted.
The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.
A victim of crime shall, as a matter of right, be treated by agents of the state with dignity, respect and sensitivity during all phases of the criminal justice process. Such person shall be entitled to receive, from the perpetrator of the crime, financial compensation for any injury or loss caused by the perpetrator of the crime, and shall receive such other compensation as the state may provide. Before sentencing, a victim shall have the right to address the court regarding the impact which the perpetrator’s conduct has had upon the victim.
The enumeration of the foregoing rights shall not be construed to impair or deny others retained by the people. The rights guaranteed by this Constitution are not dependent on those guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States.