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Rhode Island Rules of Civil Procedure

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Rhode Island Process Serving Requirements

Service of all process shall be made by a sheriff or the sheriff’s deputy, within the sheriff’s county, by a duly authorized constable, or by any person who is not a party and who is at least 18 years of age.

Service not allowed on SUNDAYS

Rhode Island Rules of Civil Procedure

Please note that lobbyists are active in the state of Rhode Island and laws concerning civil procedure and process serving can change. Therefore the information listed below may have been amended. For updated process serving legislation, please visit the Rhode Island Courts website.

Rule 4. Process, attachment, trustee process, arrest.

§ 45-16-14 Unauthorized services of process

Rule 45. Subpoena.

Rule 4. Process, attachment, trustee process, arrest.

Summons: Form.

The summons shall bear the signature or facsimile signature of the clerk, be under the seal of the court, identify the court and the parties, be directed to the defendant, state the name and address of the plaintiff’s attorney or, if unrepresented, of the plaintiff. It shall also state the time within which the defendant must appear and defend, and notify the defendant that failure to do so will result in a judgment by default against the defendant for the relief demanded in the complaint. The court may allow a summons to be amended.

Same: Issuance.

The summons may be procured in blank from the clerk and shall be filled out by the plaintiff’s attorney as provided in subdivision (a) of this rule. The plaintiff’s attorney shall deliver to the person who is to make service the original summons upon which to make the return of service and a copy of the summons and of the complaint for service upon each defendant. Additional summons may be issued against any defendant.

By Whom Served.

Service of all process shall be made by a sheriff or the sheriff’s deputy, within the sheriff’s county, by a duly authorized constable, or by any person who is not a party and who is at least 18 years of age.

Waiver of Service; Duty to Save Costs of Service; Request to Waive.

Summons: Personal Service.

The summons and complaint shall be served together. The plaintiff shall furnish the person making service with such copies as are necessary. Service shall be made as follows:

Service Outside State Within the United States; Personal Jurisdiction.

When an individual or a foreign corporation is subject to the jurisdiction of the courts of the state, service of process may be made outside the state as follows:

Service Upon Individuals in a Foreign Country.

Unless otherwise provided by state or federal law, service upon an individual from whom a waiver has not been obtained and filed, other than an infant or an incompetent person, may be effected in a place not within the United States:

Service Outside the State in Certain Actions.

Where service cannot with due diligence be made personally within the state, service of the summons and complaint may be made outside the state in the manner provided by subdivisions (f) and (g) of this rule in the following cases:

Service by Publication.

Whenever in an action described in subdivision (h) of this rule complete service cannot with due diligence be made by another prescribed method, the court shall order service by publication of a notice of the action in one or more newspapers in such form and for such length of time as the court shall direct. If a statute expressly provides for service of process by publication, publication shall be in the form and manner provided by such statute.

Proof of Service.

If service is not waived, the person effecting service shall make proof thereof on the original process or a paper attached thereto for that purpose, and shall forthwith return it to the plaintiff’s attorney. If service is made by a person other than a sheriff or the sheriff’s deputy, that person shall make affidavit thereof. Any return receipt received in connection therewith shall be annexed to such process when returned. The plaintiff’s attorney shall, within the time during which the person served must respond to the process, file the proof of service with the court. Failure to make proof of service does not affect the validity of the service.


At any time in its discretion and upon such terms as it deems just, the court may allow any process or proof of service thereof to be amended, unless it clearly appears that material prejudice would result to the substantial rights of the party against whom the process issued.

Summons: Time Limit for Service.

If a service of the summons and complaint is not made upon a defendant within 120 days after the commencement of the action and the party on whose behalf such service was required cannot show good cause why such service was not made within that period, the action shall be dismissed as to that defendant without prejudice upon the court’s own initiative with notice to such party or upon motion.

Attachment and Trustee Process.


Case Note: Service of process upon a foreign corporation incorporated in a nation which is a party to the Hague Convention must be made in accordance with the terms of that convention. Cipolla v. Picard Porsche Audi, Inc., 946 A.2d 130 (R.I. 1985).

§ 45-16-14 Unauthorized services of process.

Any individual who serves, or attempts to serve, any writ or legal process for any court of this state; other than sheriffs, deputy sheriffs, and those individuals so authorized for such service pursuant to this chapter, or other individuals authorized by law or by rule of court shall be fined not less than five hundred dollars ($500) nor more than one thousand dollars ($1,000), and/or imprisoned for a term of not less than six (6) months, nor more than one year in prison, for each violation. Provided, however, this section shall not apply to any city or town constable nor to any power or authority granted to them by any general or special law.

Rule 45. Subpoena.

Form; Issuance.

Every subpoena shall be issued by the clerk of court or a notary public or other officer authorized by statute, shall state the name of the court and the title of the action, and shall command each person to whom it is directed to attend and give testimony or to produce and permit inspection and copying of designated documents or tangible things in the possession, custody or control of that person or to permit inspection of premises at a time and place therein specified. The subpoena shall set forth the text of subdivisions (c) and (d) of this rule. A command to produce evidence or to permit inspection may be joined with a command to appear at trial or hearing or at deposition, or may be issued separately.


A subpoena may be served by the sheriff, by the sheriff’s deputy, by a constable, or by any other person who is not a party and is not less than 18 years of age. Service of a subpoena upon a person named therein shall be made by delivering a copy thereof to such person and, if the person’s attendance is commanded, by tendering to that person the fees for one day’s attendance and the mileage allowed by law. When the subpoena is issued on behalf of the state or an officer or agency thereof, fees and mileage need not be tendered. Prior notice of any commanded production of documents and things or inspection of premises before trial shall be served on each party in the manner prescribed by Rule 5(b). A subpoena may be served at any place within the state.

Protection of Persons Subject to Subpoenas.

(B) Subject to paragraph (d)(2) of this rule, a person commanded to produce and permit inspection and copying may, within 14 days after service of the subpoena or before the time specified for compliance if such time is less than 14 days after service, serve upon the party or attorney designated in the subpoena written objection to inspection or copying of any or all of the designated materials or of the premises. If objection is made, the party serving the subpoena shall not be entitled to inspect and copy the materials or inspect the premises except pursuant to an order of the court by which the subpoena was issued. If objection has been made, the party serving the subpoena may, upon notice to the person commanded to produce, move at any time for an order to compel the production. Such an order to compel production shall protect any person who is not a party or an officer of a party from significant expense resulting from the inspection and copying commanded.

Duties in Responding to Subpoena.


Failure by any person without adequate excuse to obey a subpoena served upon that person may be deemed a contempt of the court in which the action is pending. (As amended September 5, 1995.)

You should contact a Rhode Island Process Server if you have specific questions about Process Serving in Rhode Island.