Right to Counsel

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Legislation, Quarantine/Isolation

NOTE: this is a very complex area of law, especially as it relates to stay-at-home orders issued by the states.  Please read our primer on quarantine/isolation law before reading this specific state law.





The state director of health has authority to require isolation or quarantine, where "...a threat to the public health exists because any person is suffering, or appears to be suffering, from a communicable disease..."  R.I. Gen. Laws § 23-8-4.  "Any person who is confined by the director or his or her authorized agent under the provision of § 23-8-4" can be fined, imprisoned, or both. R.I. Gen. Laws § 23-8-7. A person who has been isolated or quarantined pursuant to this section can file a petition for relief at any time.  Id.  However, there is no right to counsel articulated. 

In addition, "...whenever the governor shall deem it advisable for the preservation of public health and the prevention of the spread of infectious diseases, he or she may, by proclamation, place under quarantine the whole state or that portion of the state that he or she may deem necessary...”  R.I. Gen. Laws § 23-8-18.  The procedure to challenge an order of quarantine in this context is not articulated in the statute. 


A person with a sexually transmitted disease can be isolated if they refuse treatment.  R.I. Gen. Laws § 23-11-3.  The procedure to challenge an order of isolation in this context is not articulated in the statute. 



For tuberculosis specifically, the director can issue an order detaining a person with tuberculosis in a hospital.  R.I. Gen. Laws § 23-10-6(b)(4)&(5).  Detention cannot exceed five days without court order.  R.I. Gen. Laws § 23-10-6(c).  “Any person who is subject to a detention order shall have the right to be represented by counsel and upon the request of the person, counsel shall be provided by the court.”  R.I. Gen. Laws § 23-10-6(c). 

In addition, a person with tuberculosis who has been detained by court order has the right to appeal and “the person shall have the right to be represented on appeal by counsel of his or her choice or by court appointed counsel if the supreme court finds that he or she cannot afford to retain counsel. Upon a showing of indigency the supreme court shall permit an appeal to proceed without payment of costs, and a copy of the transcript of the proceedings below shall be furnished to the subject of the proceedings or to his or her attorney at the expense of the state.  The court which issued the detention order shall advise the person of all his or her rights pursuant to this section immediately upon the entry of the detention order.”  R.I. Gen. Laws § 23-10-6(h)(4)(i).

Appointment of Counsel: categorical Qualified: yes