It may make for good politics, but I firmly believe that our criminal laws and criminal record laws should not be dictated by what is politically expedient or what benefits a candidate in a particular race. The assertion that domestic assault charges should not be permitted to be expunged is fundamentally wrong and unfair for a number of reasons. The candidate for State Rep who is wrong to call for a change in the expungement law.
Rhode Island law already prohibits certain crimes from being expunged. Those offenses include: (1) murder, (2) manslaughter, (3) first degree arson, (4) kidnapping with intent to extort, (5) robbery, (6) larceny from the person, and a number of other serious criminal offenses. However, this prohibition ONLY applies IF the Defendant was convicted of or plead guilty to the prohibited charge. These crimes, even murder, can be expunged (technically, sealed) from an individuals record if the charges were dismissed or reduced to a legally eligible offense.
An analysis of Rhode Island's current statutory structure for expungements points out the absurdity of the proposal to change the expungement law to prohibit domestic violence cases from being expunged. First, the State Rep apparently wants to make domestic violence charges the ONLY criminal offense in Rhode Island that can NEVER be removed if the case was dismissed or the defendant was found not guilty. Second, the Rhode Island expungement law already puts higher burden on defendants to expunge crimes involving domestic violence, especially for a first offense. However, (and rightfully so) cases that were dismissed can and should be eligible for expungement.
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