A legal case about driving under the influence.In March 2021, several state legislators introduced a bill regarding Rhode Island’s expungement laws and now after passing the Senate, it is off to the House for a vote.  Read today’s blog to find out what changes are proposed and what it would mean for Rhode Island citizens with a criminal record!

What does the proposed law change?

Currently, the “sealing statute,” Rhode Island General Laws § 12-1-12.1 only allows individuals to seal a criminal record if:

  1. They were acquitted or otherwise exonerated of a crime (i.e., dismissals, a not guilty finding after trial, no true bill after grand jury proceedings, or no information after felony screening process) and
  2. They do not have a felony conviction on their record.

The new bill, S0503, would eliminate the second requirement and would allow individuals to seal a case, even with a prior felony conviction on their record.  Of course, an individual must still satisfy the first requirement (acquitted or otherwise exonerated of a crime).

Additionally, the “expungement statute” Rhode Island General Laws § 12-1.3-3(c) says that if a Motion to Expunge is granted, the petitioner must pay a one-hundred ($100) dollar fee before the court will issue the expungement orders.  Bill S0503 would eliminate the $100 fee and therefore, the court would automatically remove the records from the public inspection if the court grants the motion to expunge.

Why this new bill matters!

Changes to the sealing and expungement laws would be a significant win for criminal defendants in our state and it could not come at a more perfect time.  With most businesses lifting COVID-19 restrictions and re-opening their doors, we are already seeing an increased need for workers.  It can be exceedingly difficult to find employment with criminal charges on your record.  If the bill is passed into law, significantly more individuals who were previously prohibited from sealing their criminal records will be able to clean up their criminal records.  Furthermore, with the elimination of the $100 expungement fee, more individuals may now be able to afford to expunge their criminal records. As you can understand, one hundred dollars is a lot of money, especially during a pandemic when businesses have been forced to close their doors leading to increased unemployment and when many people are living week to week.  Thus, this change should reduce some of the stress that accompanies the expungement process.

The Next Steps

If the House passes the bill, it will next go to Governor Dan McKee who will either approve the bill, in which case it would become a law, or veto the bill.  If Governor McKee vetoes the bill, it would go back to the state legislators who created the bill for potential modification.

Be sure to check back in on our firm’s blog to find out if the bill becomes a law.  If the bill is passed, contact us right away so we can get your paperwork started and help clear your criminal record!

Call the Expungement or Sealing Lawyer at Abilheira Law, LLC Today!

Our attorney offers free sealing/expungement consultations. We will review your entire record to determine which charges may be eligible for removal. Let Abilheira Law, LLC evaluate your record today!

Call us now, we are available 24/7 to take your call, 401-245-5100.