Rhode Island Public Defender

Our mission is to provide high quality representation to our clients, fulfilling the governmental obligation of effective assistance of counsel, fundamental fairness and due process. Our goal is to provide client-centered advice, holistic representation and zealous advocacy. Our commitment is to treat our clients with dignity, compassion and fairness.
Mary S. McElroy, Public Defender
Rhode Island Public Defender
160 Pine Street
Providence, RI 02903
(401) 222-3492


One of the biggest problems with the criminal justice system is that most people have no opportunity to find out how it works until it is too late--until they are charged with a crime and are “in the middle of it.” It can be a very frightening experience to be taken to court, whether for a first offense or a fourth. Part of the fear comes from being in the dark, not knowing what is going to happen and what the process is all about. It is normal for people charged with a crime to feel some nervousness: it is a serious event. Too much fear, however, is not necessary and can be lessened by knowledge of the proceedings.

On this website, you will find our client handbook, called The Non-Lawyers Sourcebook of Criminal Law. This handbook was written by lawyers in our office and guides the reader through the key terms and aspects of criminal defense in Rhode Island. It also features sections on interactions with the police, expungement, and warrant cancellation.

Lawyers and staff at our office regularly give community presentations at schools, shelters, service providers, churches and soup kitchens. In the past, we have spoken about expungement, warrant cancellation, interactions with the police, and the impact of a criminal record. If you are interested in hosting a presentation, whether for students, community-members or staff at an organization, contact our Community Outreach Liaison. You also can check our Public Defender News page to see postings of upcoming public workshops.

We also distribute brochures and information sheets related to criminal justice issues in Rhode Island. Here you will find our:

Please see our Know Your Rights page for information sheets regarding interactions with the police.


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