Rhode Island Record Expungement Lawyer
Expunging Your Criminal Record
Even minor criminal convictions will appear on a background check. They can affect your ability to find employment and housing, get credit and loans, and obtain various licenses. They can even end up working against you in cases of divorce, child custody and adoption.
For minor offenses, the state provides a way for you to essentially clear your record and avoid these problems. Once you complete the process and a court orders your record expunged or sealed, these offenses no longer show up when your background is checked. The expungement process can be complicated – it’s best to consult a record expungement lawyer for any questions you have regarding your case.
Sealing versus Expungement
In Rhode Island, there are two devices for clearing your record: sealing and expungement. The effect is the same, but the process for obtaining them differs.
- Expungement is for cases in which you received a sentence, even if that sentence was merely a fine, or the sentence was suspended.
- Sealing is for cases that were disposed of without a sentence being imposed, including acquittals or dismissals.
Most people are surprised to learn that acquittals and dismissals remain part of their record, but they do. Any background check would still turn up the fact that the charges were filed. There is a court fee for expungement, but not for sealing.
Who is Eligible for Expungement?
Rhode Island imposes three requirements for the right to have our criminal record expunged:
- You must be a first-time offender.
- Your crime cannot have been one of violence.
- The specified “waiting period” after your conviction must have passed.
Who is a “First Time Offender”?
The Rhode Island expungement law is very specific on this point. To qualify as a first-time offender you must not:
- Have been convicted of any crime prior to the conviction you want expunged.
- Have been convicted of any crime since the conviction you want expunged.
- Have any criminal case pending against you at the time you seek expungement.
There is a prescribed period of time that must pass between when you completed the sentence that was imposed for the crime you want expunged and the time you seek expungement. In general:
- Five years must have passed in the case of misdemeanors.
- Ten years must have passed in the case of felonies.
Other time periods apply to special categories of cases. For example, if you received a deferred sentence after a plea of guilty or no contest, five years must pass from the time of that sentence. A three year period applies to cases of domestic violence.
Criteria for Granting Expungement
Expungement is not automatic. Satisfying the eligibility criteria described above merely gives you the right to apply for expungement. The final decision remains with the judge, who is required by law to examine whether:
- An applicant has shown “good moral character.”
- An applicant has been rehabilitated.
- The interest of the public “is consistent” with granting expungement.
Effect of Expungement
Expungement clears your criminal record when it comes to answering employment questions or testifying as a witness. You are no longer prevented from exercising most civil rights that are restricted for people with convictions.
Your conviction may, however, still be used as a prior offense to increase the severity of a sentence if you commit another crime. The expungement law also requires that the conviction still be disclosed in any application for employment in positions that call for special trust, such as law enforcement, the practice of law, or teaching.
Call an Experienced Rhode Island Record Expungement Attorney
Getting your record expunged or sealed can tricky. The processes must comply with the technical requirements of the law. Common questions that arise during this process include:
- How do you get your record?
- How and where do you file your motion?
- How do you prepare for the hearing?
- What kind of evidence should you bring to it?
- What needs to happen after your motion is granted; granting the motion gives you the right to have the record expunged, but do you need to take further action for your record to actually be cleared?
East Greenwich, Rhode Island, criminal defense attorney and former prosecutor Stephanie A. Murphy has been successfully defending people charged with crimes in Rhode Island for more than 11 years. If you are, or think you may be, eligible to have your record sealed or expunged, she can help. If you have already had your record expunged but something went wrong and your conviction remained public information, she can help. Call the Law Offices of Stephanie A. Murphy today for your free consultation.