Civil Rights Violations & Hate Crimes

We protect the civil rights of individuals belonging to a protected class, including those who may be discriminated against on the basis of their actual or perceived race; color; national origin; ancestry; sex (including pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions); sexual orientation; gender identity or expression; disability; age; citizenship or immigration status; genetic information; or status as a person living with AIDS/HIV, or person who is homeless. 

Whenever any person intentionally interferes or threatens to intentionally interfere, by physical force or violence against a person, by damage or destruction of property or by trespass on property, with the exercise or enjoyment of rights secured by federal or state law, the attorney general may bring a civil action for injunctive relief in order to protect the peaceable exercise or enjoyment of the rights secured.

Our Office can:

  • Investigate complaints
  • Bring civil enforcement actions for injunctive relief to protect individuals who have been subjected to bias-motivated actual or threatened violence, damage or destruction of property, or trespass on property

Civil Rights Violations

If a perpetrator interferes with a person’s constitutional rights (for example, the right to vote) or legal rights (for example, the right to be free from discrimination in housing, employment, or education) using physical force or violence, trespass, or damage or destruction of property, or threatens to do the same, our Office can bring a civil enforcement action. In these cases, the Office can seek an injunction to stop unlawful conduct.

Hate Crimes

A hate crime is any criminal act in which the perpetrator intentionally selects a victim or property because of the perpetrator’s hatred or animus towards a person’s protected status (actual or perceived race, religion, color, disability, national origin or ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation).

Under Rhode Island law, a hate crime does not need to be motivated solely by bigotry or bias; rather the evidence must show that the offense was motivated, at least in part, by the defendant’s animus toward the victim’s protected status.

In Rhode Island, a hate crime is not a separate criminal charge; it is a sentencing enhancement. If you believe a crime has been committed, contact the Rhode Island State Police or your local police department immediately. Filing this complaint does NOT constitute a criminal complaint. To file a criminal complaint, you MUST contact the Rhode Island State Police or your local police department.

You may also complete our Civil Rights Complaint Form. Our Office will carefully consider the information you have provided to determine whether a violation of the state civil rights laws, a hate crime, or police misconduct or excessive force may have occurred and, if so, whether this Office or another agency has enforcement authority to assist you.

Law Enforcement Guidance for Hate Crimes

An effective response to hate crimes and related civil rights violations is imperative for law enforcement in Rhode Island to ensure that the community and law enforcement are aligned in the shared goal of reducing crime targeted at minorities and other vulnerable groups.

We issued law enforcement guidance for hate crime investigations to address misconduct motivated by bigotry or hatred of protected groups and to improve policing in Rhode Island.

This guidance recommends that each police department designate a Hate Crimes and Civil Rights Liaison, who will serve as a department contact to the Civil Rights Team.