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  • Ann Sheeley

Record Expungement & Why It’s So Important If You’ve Ever Been Arrested

Updated: Oct 17, 2023

Did you know your previous arrests are on your public record and easily accessible by current and future employers, landlords, banks and even family members? Even if you were never convicted of a crime, your record can still cause you harm. The good news is Rhode Island is considered to be fairly lenient with regards to expungement. Sheeley Law has more than 25 years of experience helping people clean the slate and move on from prior mistakes. To help you understand a little more about this opportunity, below are some frequently asked questions that I receive from clients, and answers to help you determine if you qualify for expungement.

Q: What types of criminal offenses can you expunge? A: Dismissed charges and not guilty findings can almost always be expunged. However, in most cases, if you have a separate felony charge on your record, you must wait 10 years until after you serve your sentence. This means if part of the sentence was probation or deferment, the 10 years start running upon completion of probation or deferred sentence. It is important that if you are seeking to get a dismissed or not guilty charge expunged, you stay out of trouble for a year, otherwise there is a risk your expungement will be denied by the court.

A misdemeanor is an offense lower than a felony that is usually punishable by a fine, a filing or probation, and does not include incarceration. Generally speaking, if you have a misdemeanor offense, it may be expunged five years after the completion of the sentence or probationary period. This includes probation, a suspended sentence, a deferred sentence, a stayed sentence or fines. Even though probation or a deferred sentence does not necessarily mean you were convicted of a crime, per Rhode Island Law, they are treated the same way as convictions when it comes to expungement. A new Rhode Island Law came into effect on July 18, 2017 that allows up to five (5) misdemeanors on a person’s record to be expunged.

A felony conviction is classified as any sentence imposed by a judge that includes a fine, suspended sentence or possible incarceration. If you have a felony on your record and received either probation, a deferred sentence, a suspended sentence or prison time, you may be able to get your record expunged ten years after the completion of the sentence or probationary period.

Q: Can a Traffic Offense be expunged? What if the charge is Refusal to take a Breathalyzer or Chemical Test?? A: YES! Many people do not realize that Traffic Court records can be expunged. There is a three (3) year waiting period, after which even a traffic offense may be expunged. This includes the charge of Refusal to take a Breathalyzer or Chemical Test.

Q: Can expungement be denied? A: Yes, in some cases, a judge can deny your request for expungement. Some factors that may play a part in the denial include pending arrest(s), conviction of a sexual offense, a charge involving physical harm, or if court records state that the case is still open.

Q: Can expunged records ever be unsealed? A: In most cases, NO, sealed cases cannot be unsealed. However, in Rhode Island, there is a three (3) year waiting period for the destruction of filed domestic violence cases, which may be reopened.

Remember, current and potential employers, landlords, and even your family can view details about your case. Expungement can provide you a great opportunity for a fresh start.  Contact  Sheeley Law, an experienced criminal defense law firm, at 401-619-5555 to see if you qualify to get your record expunged.


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