Do You Need an Expungement Attorney in Rhode Island?
A criminal history can have a profound impact on your reputation, your employment, and your overall quality of life. Expungement or sealing your record can alleviate many of these often overwhelming and extremely limiting issues. By consulting with an experienced Rhode Island expungement lawyer, you may be able to remove many barriers to employment, housing, and loans while opening up doors to improved opportunities for your professional and family life without the weight of social stigma that comes with a criminal record.
Understanding the Challenges of a Criminal Record and The Value of Expungement
Many employers are reluctant to hire individuals with a criminal record due to concerns about their potential for re-offending. A criminal history can make it challenging to secure rental housing, as landlords may deny applications based on past convictions. Financial institutions may reject loan applications from individuals with a criminal record.
People with a criminal record often face social stigma, which can lead to feelings of isolation, which may also impact mental health. Perhaps you have increasingly felt these effects yourself. A criminal record can also hinder your professional growth, often further straining your family relationships. Neglecting to seek expungement amounts to a missed opportunity to potentially lessen these difficulties in your life.
Explaining How Expungement of a Criminal Conviction Works
Expungement or sealing your record is a legal process that effectively “erases” a criminal record for most purposes. This means the conviction would not show up on most background checks, providing a clean slate and allowing the person to move forward without the burden of a criminal record.
Effects and Benefits of Expungement
- Improved Employment Prospects: Individuals are more likely to secure employment with an expunged record because most employers won’t see the conviction in a background check.
- Easier Housing Applications: An expunged record can make it easier to secure housing, as landlords also typically won’t see your conviction on a background check.
- Reduced Social Stigma: Expungement can help reduce the social stigma you suffer and increasingly experience by having a criminal record.
- Increased Opportunities: Expungement can open doors to opportunities previously closed due to a criminal record, such as certain professional licenses or public benefits.
A Rhode Island expungement lawyer can help to remove a misdemeanor conviction from your public record, with some exceptions. Additionally, some felony offenses can also be expunged for first-time offenders. Call me today at the Law Offices of Thomas G. Briody to discuss your expungement options.
Types of Crimes that May Be Expunged in Rhode Island
Under Rhode Island law, only certain criminal arrests or convictions, including many misdemeanor crimes and certain non-violent felonies, may be eligible for expungement, removing them from your criminal record.
Whether you are a first offender (or first-time offender) will affect your waiting time or ability to file for criminal record expungement. A first offender has no other misdemeanor or felony convictions and has not been placed on probation for felonies or misdemeanors.
Consider seeking expungement for the following:
- Misdemeanors: Many misdemeanors are eligible for expungement. The individual must wait five years after completing their sentence before applying. If you have multiple misdemeanors (no more than five), the waiting time extends to ten years.
- Non-Violent Felonies: Non-violent felonies may also be expunged if you are a first offender, but a waiting period of ten years applies after the sentence has been fully served.
- Dismissed Cases and Acquittals: If a case was dismissed, there was no true bill (in which case the Grand Jury did not see enough probable cause to bring an indictment), or there was no finding of guilt, the record can be sealed.
- Marijuana Possession Offenses: Rhode Island has decriminalized many marijuana possession offenses, which means that certain offenses involving marijuana may be expunged.
- Juvenile Offense Records: Juveniles must wait three years to apply for expungement.
Note that not all crimes can be expunged in Rhode Island. Crimes of violence, such as assault, arson, burglary, robbery, and kidnapping, are not eligible for expungement — even for first-time offenders. Moreover, many felony convictions, suspended sentences, fines, or probations cannot be expunged.
Eligibility for Expungement in Rhode Island
Not all criminal records are eligible for expungement, and it’s important to consider the specific criteria set by Rhode Island law. There are general eligibility criteria, but these have some exceptions.
Limits on Types of Crimes Eligible for Expungement in Rhode Island
Rhode Island law limits the types of crimes that can be expunged. For instance, any record of criminal conviction for violent crimes defined by statute as a Crime of Violence cannot be expunged — regardless of whether they are felony or misdemeanor convictions.
As for DUIs, whether they are treated as misdemeanors or felonies can impact their eligibility for expungement. Typically, first and second-offense DUIs are misdemeanors and may be eligible for expungement after a certain period. In contrast, third and subsequent offenses are felonies and may be more difficult to expunge.
Unfortunately, individuals with more than one record of probation or conviction cannot apply for expungement under current Rhode Island law. Coordinate with your expungement lawyer to assess your situation, which may involve checking with the court system, probation department, or the arresting police department. Other details of your history, such as juvenile records (the majority of which should remain sealed in Rhode Island, save for serious charges such as murder or rape — which would be tried in adult court), noncompliance with terms and conditions following a deferred sentence, your arrest record, another criminal charge, or other criminal proceedings may be contributing to the picture in a way that is causing you to be disallowed to expunge criminal records.
Note that some criminal charges for prostitution require only a 1-year waiting period after the completion of a sentence before one can file to have records expunged. DUI and domestic violence misdemeanors are also treated differently from other misdemeanors when it comes to expungement, and other exceptions may apply in your situation. If you were previously convicted of any criminal offenses, discuss the details of your specific case with your Rhode Island expungement attorney to explore your eligibility and options to have your record expunged.
Understanding The Expungement Process in Rhode Island
The following are the steps to pursue criminal record expungement:
- Confirm Eligibility: First, collect your records from the Bureau of Criminal Identification (BCI) and confirm your eligibility.
- Filing a Motion: Rhode Island law requires that you file a Motion to Expunge a misdemeanor in the District Court where the conviction took place. To expunge a felony, you would file a Motion to Expunge in the Superior Court where the conviction took place. You must be physically present in Rhode Island to appear at the Courthouse to file the Motion to Expunge.
- Waiting Period: Whether you are a first offender, whether you seek to expunge a misdemeanor or a felony conviction, and the number of other misdemeanors on your record can affect the duration of your waiting period or your ability to seek expungement.
- To file for expungement of a felony conviction, you must be a first offender and wait 10 arrest-free years to file.
- To file for expungement of a misdemeanor as a first offender, you must wait 5 arrest-free years.
- To file for expungement of a misdemeanor when you have more than one but fewer than six misdemeanors and no felonies on your record, you must wait 10 arrest-free years to file for expungement of your misdemeanor.
- Note that the five-year or ten-year waiting period begins after you have completed your sentence or parole.
- Court Hearing: After filing the motion, a court hearing will be scheduled. During this hearing, the judge will consider the nature of the crime, the applicant’s behavior since the conviction, and any objections raised by the prosecution.
- Order of Expungement: If the judge approves the motion, an Order of Expungement will be issued. This order directs all relevant agencies to seal or destroy their records of your conviction. Understand that a judge has discretion, and the judge may decide not to approve the Motion to Expunge.
The timeline for the completion of expungement upon approval varies depending on the specifics of your case and the court’s schedule. Your Rhode Island expungement lawyer can guide you through the process as you seek to have a criminal conviction expunged.
Differentiating Expungement Versus Sealed Records
You should understand the differences between expungement and sealed records. In Rhode Island, expungement involves destroying the record of a criminal conviction or having it sealed from the court record. Expungement is typically applicable if your case led to probation or a conviction, including suspended sentences, home confinement, incarceration, or fines. When a record is expunged, it is removed from public view and can no longer be accessed by the public for any reason.
Sealing a record, on the other hand, generally applies to cases that led to a dismissal, no true bill (no indictment due to insufficient probable cause), no information (another way of saying there were no formal misdemeanor or felony charges), or a finding of not guilty. When a record is sealed, the public cannot access the record. However, the sealed record still exists and may be referred to or used under special circumstances. While both expungement and sealing limit the accessibility of criminal records, the key difference lies in the fact that expunged records are destroyed and removed completely, whereas sealed records still exist but are inaccessible to the public.
What To Do If Information From Expunged Records Remains Accessible
If your expunged conviction or sealed criminal record information remains accessible or is used against you, the following options may be available to you to rectify the situation:
- Legal Action: If your expunged or sealed criminal record information is improperly disclosed or used against you, you may be able to take legal action against the party responsible. This action might involve filing a lawsuit for damages or seeking a court order to prevent further disclosure.
- Contact an Attorney: If you suspect your expunged or sealed record is still accessible, contact an experienced expungement attorney who can investigate the matter and guide you on the right course of action.
- Verify the Expungement or Sealing: In some cases, there may have been an error in the expungement or sealing process. It’s advisable to verify with the court that issued the criminal record expungement or sealing order to ensure it was properly executed.
To prevent further access or use of expunged or sealed criminal record information:
- Regularly Check Your Record: Routinely review your criminal record to ensure that expunged or sealed information isn’t appearing where it shouldn’t.
- Inform Relevant Parties: If your record has been expunged or sealed, notify the relevant parties (such as background check companies) about the change to your record status.
- Know Your Rights: Be aware of your rights when it comes to who can access your expunged or sealed record. In most cases, only certain government or criminal justice entities can access these records.
Coordinate with your Rhode Island expungement lawyer for guidance as you follow these steps to protect your future interests. The expungement process is complex due to its many parties beyond law enforcement agencies, court records, and their systems, so the additional initiative is sometimes necessary to bring public records into line with Rhode Island expungement law such that records relating to expunged felony or misdemeanor convictions do not harm you in your future endeavors.
The Risks of Neglecting Opportunities to Seek Criminal Record Expungement in Rhode Island
Your options for employment, housing, and loans can significantly improve if you are eligible to have your criminal records expunged. By choosing not to pursue expungement, you would be needlessly limiting yourself, missing out on chances to improve your situation with a clear criminal record.
It is, therefore, often wise to determine your options for expungement early on if you are charged or convicted of a crime. By working strategically with an experienced criminal defense attorney to identify the applicable criteria for criminal record expungement eligibility, you can develop a plan for when to begin seeking expungement towards optimizing your opportunities going forward.
Contact The Law Offices of Thomas G. Briody in Providence, Rhode Island to Discuss Your Expungement Options
You are likely aware of the effects a criminal history has on your options and the ways you are perceived in many facets of your life. Depending on your situation, you may be eligible now or in the future to remove some of that weight to avoid needlessly suffering. It is prudent to identify your expungement of criminal record options early, as you should be thinking of avoiding other criminal convictions during the time leading up to the completion of your ten- or five-year waiting period, even before a guilty verdict.
The first step to expunging your criminal record is to contact an experienced Rhode Island expungement attorney. If you were previously convicted, there may still be work to do on your criminal case under Rhode Island expungement law years after your criminal proceeding.
Let’s discuss the circumstances surrounding your criminal history and your potential eligibility for criminal record expungement in Rhode Island. Call me at (401) 751-5151 today to discuss your options and begin strategizing your next steps.
Law Offices of Thomas G. Briody — Aggressive, Compassionate Defense