Due Process Issues The ACLU of Rhode Island is Involved With - Court Cases, Legislation, News Releases

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Due Process

The ACLU of Rhode Island fights to ensure that government agencies and municipalities proceed fairly when dealing with citizens in their day-to-day dealings with the bureaucracy and in the court system. Legal rights cannot be vindicated when the government denies or severely limits the rights of individuals to seek relief in the courts, or fails to give them a meaningful opportunity to be heard and contest actions that affect their liberty.

The ACLU of Rhode Island is currently advocating for strong privacy protections to be included in a bill that undercuts the presumption of innocence and would require the collection of DNA from individuals who are merely arrested, but never convicted, for a wide array of crimes.

Due Process in the News

  • Mar, 22, 2019: Wyatt to House ICE Detainees; ACLU Raises Specter of the Death of Jason Ng
  • Mar, 14, 2019: Settlement Reached in Suit Against Woonsocket for Retaliating Against Domestic Violence Agency
  • Dec, 31, 2018: ACLU Files Brief in Support of Foxy Lady Keeping Entertainment License Pending Court Review

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Due Process Related Court Cases

2018: Richer v. N. Smithfield Police Department
Category: Active Case    Due Process    Police Practices    Right to Petition & Protest    

About This Case:
This is a federal lawsuit on behalf of a North Smithfield resident, challenging the police department’s refusal to remove from its files a note falsely claiming that he is “dangerous,” “psychologically unstable,” and has numerous weapons at his house. Police officials have acknowledged that they have no basis for the claims contained in the note, which was uncovered while the ACLU was litigating another pending lawsuit on behalf of the resident, Jason Richer.

Current Status:
Lawsuit filed in October 2018.

ACLU Cooperating Attorneys:
Thomas W. Lyons, Rhiannon S. Huffman

Supporting Documents
2018: SouthCoast Fair Housing v. Saunders
Category: Active Case    Due Process    Free Speech    Right to Petition & Protest    

About This Case:
This is a federal lawsuit on behalf of SouthCoast Fair Housing against the RI Supreme Court over a court rule that is preventing the organization from providing legal help to victims of housing discrimination in RI. As the rule is currently written, non-profit organizations cannot obtain a license to practice law in the state unless they serve only “indigent” clients. This is despite the fact that the Court’s own rules recognize that it is not just the poor, but “sometimes persons who are not poor” who are unable to afford adequate legal assistance.

Current Status:
Lawsuit filed in September 2018.

ACLU Cooperating Attorneys:
Mark W. Freel and Jeffrey Ankrom

Supporting Documents

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Due Process Related Legislation

Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (H 5167)
Category: 2019    Due Process    

H 5167, opposed by the ACLU, would allow Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs) to attest to a patients’ mental health condition and participate in certifying patients for mandated outpatient treatment, which is presently something that only doctors can do. Although we understand the role that APRNs play in the mental health community, we argued that when it comes to medical recommendations for involuntary treatment, patients are stripped of critical elements of due process when the decision is in the hand of anyone but a physician.

Emergency Commitment of Substance Use Disorder Patients (H 5751)
Category: 2019    Due Process    

Similar to legislation introduced in previous years, H 5751 would allow a physician to request a hold on a substance-abusing patient and provide a process for a court hearing to determine if emergency commitment would be appropriate for the patient. We argued that although the bill is well-meaning, it  raises massive due process concerns and could be counterproductive to the goal of recovery.

Driver’s License Fines Reduction (S 78)
Category: 2019    Due Process    

Under current law, drivers must pay the entirety of their traffic fines or risk the suspension of their driver’s license. This system, in Rhode Island and nationwide, can trap individuals in a cycle of poverty as they struggle to pay their fines and get to work without the ability to legally drive. Sponsored by Senator Frank Lombardi, S 78 addresses this serious problem by providing an “ability-to-pay” hearing to authorize payment plans or a reduction in the fines owed before a driver’s license suspension is imposed as punishment. The ACLU testified in strong support of the bill. 

Animal Care Service Inspections (H 5297)
Category: 2019    Due Process    

H 5297 would grant constitutionally problematic powers to both the Department of Environmental Management and the RISPCA. The bill intends to regulate “unlicensed animal care providers” by allowing the DEM and RISPCA the ability to conduct investigations, impose fines, and possibly request search warrants on animal care providers if the organizations receive a (potentially anonymous) complaint about the provider. Because of this, the bill would violate critical tenets of criminal law, such as the requirement of probable cause.