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

Public Defender Divisions


Criminal Trial

Juvenile Trial

Parental Rights Trial

Appellate Division

Community Partnership


Social Services



Training and Legislation

Rhode Island Public Defender
160 Pine Street
Providence, RI 02903
(401) 222-3492


Public Defender Criminal Trial Division

The largest core of the Public Defender attorney staff is its trial division, which represents misdemeanor and felony defendants who are determined to be financially eligible for representation. Most criminal cases are referred by the district or superior court, but defendants who are without counsel and believe themselves to be financially eligible may self-refer and be interviewed. The Office of the Public Defender represents eligible defendants in direct prosecutions of misdemeanors and felonies and in cases alleging violations of misdemeanor or felony probation. Generally, representation will not be provided in cases where there is no potential of imprisonment upon conviction (such as many town or city ordinance prosecutions).

Misdemeanor and felony defendants are entitled to be represented from arraignment through the conclusion of the criminal case and the Public Defender endeavors to provide all eligible defendants requesting counsel with representation. A misdemeanor defendant will generally be represented by the same attorney throughout the proceedings, unless there is an appeal to the Rhode Island Supreme Court in which case an appellate division attorney will take over representation. In felony cases, early stages such as arraignment and some screening processes will be handled by attorneys who specialize in those proceedings.

Trial division attorneys are located throughout the state, with the largest concentration in the main office at 160 Pine Street, in Providence. Generally, trial division staff serving particular courthouses throughout the state have offices in those courthouses. The trial division staff serving Providence County courts is comprised of three units: the felony unit, the district court unit, and the superior court violation-of-probation unit.

Copyright © 2013 Rhode Island Public Defender