Expungement in Rhode Island: Clearing Your Criminal Record for a Fresh Start

January 30, 2024 – Thomas G. Briody

Rhode Island is known for its relatively liberal laws regarding the expungement or sealing of criminal records. Many misdemeanor charges can be easily expunged or sealed, although there may be a waiting period depending on the nature of the charge. This process enables the sealing of a record, making it inaccessible to authorities and potential employers. However, this is not applicable in every case. For instance, expunging violent or serious felonies, such as murder or sexual assault, is extremely difficult, if not impossible.

The importance of seeking to have your record expunged or sealed lies in its impact on employment opportunities. A criminal record can hinder your ability to secure or maintain employment, especially in fields that conduct thorough background checks. If you are considering expungement, it is advisable to consult with an attorney. The legal fees for expungement are generally lower than those for defending against a charge, but the process involves several critical steps.

These steps include appearing in court to obtain an order for expungement or sealing. Once this order is granted, it is crucial to circulate it to the relevant authorities, such as the Bureau of Criminal Identification, the police department involved in the arrest, and the Rhode Island Department of Attorney General. These agencies maintain substantial databases and records, and it is vital to ensure they comply with the order to seal the arrest or conviction.

In summary, expunging or sealing a criminal record in Rhode Island can be a straightforward process for many misdemeanors, offering a fresh start to individuals. However, for serious felonies, this option may not be available. The key to a successful expungement is understanding the legal requirements and working closely with an experienced attorney to navigate the process effectively.

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