As a general rule, Rhode Island's expungement law prohibits the expungement (or, in this context, properly referred to as sealing) of all criminal records of those individuals who have been "convicted" of a felony criminal offense. This rule prohibits individuals from sealing records related to those cases in which they were arrested and charged with a criminal offense and the charges were ultimately dropped; whether that be by dismissal under Rule 48A or a no true bill is returned by a grand jury. The exception to this rule was added in a recent amendment to the Rhode Island General law related to the sealing of criminal records.
In 2015, the Rhode Island Legislature amended Rhode Island’s Sealing Statute to allow for the sealing of records related to arrests and criminal charges that were brought if the defendant was ultimately “acquitted” after trial of those charges. The Sealing of these charges is permitted, even if the defendant has prior convictions for felony criminal offenses. The specific language permitting the sealing of these records is found in Rhode Island General Law Section 12-1-12.1(a) which states:
“Any person who is acquitted or otherwise exonerated of all counts in a criminal case, including, but not limited to, dismissal or filing of a no true bill or no information, may file a motion for the sealing of his or her court records in the case, provided, that no person who has been convicted of a felony shall be entitled to relief under this section except for those records in cases of acquittal after trial.” Emphasis added
While this statutory amendment does not impact a large number of cases or individuals, it is an important step in implementing fairer rules regarding criminal record expungement. Those individuals who have been arrested and charged with a criminal offense who are ultimately “acquitted” after trial by judge or jury deserve the right to have those charges removed from their criminal record.
While this amendment was passed without fanfare or press coverage, the change provides individuals with the right to have these charges removed and fixes a statutory wrong. While there are many more aspects of the Rhode Island Expungement law that one could deem to be unfair, this is a step in the right direction.
If you were charged with a criminal offense and were acquitted after trial by a judge or a jury, you are now permitted to have these charges sealed and removed from your criminal background. Even if you were denied expungement in the past, this statutory change will permit the removal of these records. Contact Attorney Matthew Marin for more information and a no obligation, confidential case evaluation. We are available 24/7 at 401-228-8271 or by email at email@example.com.
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