This year, individuals with criminal records in Rhode Island may finally get the opportunity to clear their record. Several new laws have been proposed in the House of Representatives and Senate, which would allow criminal defendants to expunge their records, even if they were previously ineligible for expungement.

Currently, under Rhode Island law, individuals can only expunge a criminal record if:

  • They are a first time offender, with no other criminal convictions or probation sentences
  • They have not been convicted of a crime of violence
  • They have waited five (5) years since the completion of their misdemeanor sentence or ten (10) years for the completion of their sentence in a felony

Because of these stringent requirements, thousands of people carry criminal records with as little as two crimes, with no possibility of ever clearing their records. Criminal records may follow those people for life, even if they made just a few mistakes when they were young. These individuals may be rejected from college, passed over for employment, and may even be denied for government housing and benefits. With this in mind, lawmakers are trying to give people a second chance in 2017.

The first set of bills, Senate Bill 0186 and House Bill 5157 would change the definition of a first time offender and would allow defendants to expunge their criminal records even if they have two (2) misdemeanor convictions on their record.

Additionally, the Rhode Island Department of Attorney General has resubmitted the same bill they proposed in 2016, which would allow individuals to expunge up to six (6) misdemeanor convictions. House Bill 5205, gives people an avenue to expunge as little as one, or as many as six (6) misdemeanors from their record, so long as they have remained out of trouble for at least ten (10) years. Excluded from this expungement bill are those individuals convicted of a felony. Furthermore, certain offenses would be ineligible for expungement, including DUI, chemical test refusals, and domestic violence crimes.

Finally, the Rhode Island Public Defender has proposed Senate Bill 0069, which would allow for the expungement of all records of crimes that were decriminalized after an individual was sentenced. Most notably, this would apply to those individuals convicted of possession of less than one ounce of marijuana and first and second offense operating on a suspended license violations, which have recently been decriminalized.

With a long legislative session ahead of lawmakers, it remains to be seen if these bills will in fact become law in Rhode Island. However, many are hopeful that expungement reform will happen this session, since several bills are now on the floor for a second year in a row. As the session progresses, stay up to date with Abilheira Law’s blog and social media platforms for updates on new legislation and laws.

If you are plagued with a criminal record that is preventing you from getting into school, seeking gainful employment, or even finding suitable housing, contact the skilled Rhode Island expungement lawyers at Abilheira Law. Our experienced attorneys have set precedent on expungement law in Rhode Island and are dedicated to helping our clients clear their name. Do not hesitate, call today to request your consultation, 401-245-5100.