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Understanding Rhode Island’s Expungement Laws

No one wants a criminal record yet more than 70 million Americans - nearly 1 in 3 adults - have one. A criminal record is a list of a person’s arrests and convictions on file in the criminal justice system. Not only do police, prosecutors, and courts have access to these records, but members of the general public, including employers, landlords, and banks can easily search and obtain them. Fortunately, it is possible to keep certain prior mistakes private by having your criminal records sealed or expunged. At Sheeley Law, we are here to help you understand Rhode Island’s expungement laws, see if you qualify, and guide you step-by-step through the process.

What is Expungement?

In the State of Rhode Island, "Expungement of records and records of conviction means the sealing and retention of all records of a conviction and/or probation and the removal from active files of all records and information relating to conviction and/or probation.” RIGL § 12-1.3-1.

 

To put it more simpler terms, if the court grants you an expungement order, any mention of the criminal matter will be removed from all court records, police department records, probation department records, public records and the Bureau of Criminal Identification. This means that your record is essentially “erased” and the expunged criminal convictions are treated like they never occurred.

What is the Difference Between Having Your Record Sealed vs. Expunged?

There is a distinct difference between having your criminal record expunged verses sealed. If you have your record sealed, the public cannot access the record. However, certain government agencies will still be able to access to your criminal history.

 

Having your record expunged goes a step further and prohibits not only the public but also government entities from accessing the expunged criminal convictions. If a government agency wants to access a particular criminal record, they must product a court order.

Am I Eligible for Expungement?

According to Rhode Island state law RIGL §12-1.3-2, you may be eligible for an expungement if you meet the following criteria:

 

  1. You are a first-time offender. If you have multiple misdemeanor convictions, expunging your record is still possible. See below for the qualifying criteria:

  2. You committed a non-violent crime (see list below for what is considered a violent crime in the eyes of the law)

  3. You have waited the mandatory period of time since the completion of your sentence, which is five (5) years for misdemeanors and ten (10) years for felonies.

  4. During the waiting period, you have not been arrested for or convicted of any felony or misdemeanor charges.

  5. You have no pending criminal proceedings.

  6. The judge deems that you have exhibited “good moral character,” meaning that you’ve gone through some process of rehabilitation since the conviction and that the expungement of the record does not go against what is in the public’s best interest. A few ways to demonstrate “good moral character” is by showing proof of consistent employment, completion of educational programs, volunteer work, or mental health counseling.

What Types of Crimes Do Not Qualify for Expungement?

According to Rhode Island Law, violent crimes are not eligible for expungement. The list includes murder, manslaughter, first degree arson, kidnapping with intent to extort, robbery, larceny from the person, first degree sexual assault, second degree sexual assault, first and second degree child molestation, assault with intent to murder, assault with intent to rob, assault with intent to commit first degree sexual assault, burglary, and entering a dwelling house with intent to commit murder, robbery, sexual assault, or larceny. RIGL §12-1.3-1.

What If I Have More Than One Misdemeanor?

In late 2017, Rhode Island’s legislature enacted several changes to our state’s expungement laws. Previously, individuals were eligible to expunge a criminal conviction only if they were a "first time offender." Now, you may seek to expunge multiple misdemeanor convictions under if:

1. You have been convicted of more than one (1) but less than six (6) misdemeanors.

2. You have not been convicted of a felony.

3. You have waited ten (10) years since the completion of your last misdemeanor sentence.

4. During the ten (10) years since the completion of your last sentence, you have not been arrested nor convicted of any felony or misdemeanor.

5. You have no pending criminal cases.

6. You have exhibited good moral character.

It is important to note that if you have multiple convictions of violent crimes, DUIs/chemical test refusals and domestic violence, you are not eligible to expunge your record. 

I Believe I Qualify for Expungement, What’s Next?

The first step is to contact Sheeley Law for a free consultation. Experienced expungement attorney Ann Sheeley will confirm whether your record is eligible for expungement and will guide you through the process every step of the way.

 

The paperwork for expungement can be confusing and time-consuming, which is why it is important to have an experienced criminal defense attorney like Ann Sheeley by your side. Once all the necessary paperwork has been filed, we will schedule a motion for your hearing. Upon your successful expungement, you may state that you have never been convicted of a crime with the following exceptions, where you must disclose prior convictions even if your record has been expunged:

  • If you are applying for a law enforcement agency position,

  • If you are applying for admission to the bar of any court,

  • If you are applying for a teaching certificate, a coaching certificate or to be the operator or employee of an early childhood education facility

 

Mistakes happen but expunging your record can offer you a fresh start. If you have a criminal record, Sheeley Law can help. Attorney Ann Sheeley has more than 25 years of experience helping people expunge their records in order to keep their private life private and protect their future. We offer a free consultation and are available to you 24/7 by calling 401-619-5555 or emailing asheeley@sheeleylaw.com.