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Rhode Island Attorney

Expungement

Expungement

Introduction

If you are ready to clean that skeleton out of your closet you need to speak to a Rhode IslandExpungement Lawyer.  If you are eligible for an Expungement, it makes absolutely no sense not to have your criminal record Expunged.

Filing for an Expungement is easy.  And when it comes to your criminal record, it is always a good idea to seek the guidance of a Rhode Island Expungement Lawyer to help you.  And hiring a Rhode IslandExpungement Lawyer is not expensive.  In fact, for most people, it is very affordable.

If you are seeking information about filing for an Expungement you have come to the right place.  At the risk of immodesty I am confident that this page on Rhode Island Expungement Law has more information than you will find anywhere else.  This is no ordinary page.  It has tons of information.

If you are motivated to erase your criminal record, please read all of the information I have posted here.  When you are finished, please feel free to contact me anytime.  I am always happy to help people put the past where it belongs.

It Could Have Happened To Anybody

You were probably in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Maybe you ran with the wrong crowd or you were with people that you now know you shouldn’t have been with.  Perhaps it was a simple case of immaturity or poor judgment.  Or maybe you had just one too many drinks at the wedding or party to safely, and legally drive home.

Whatever it was, it doesn’t matter anymore, right?

Any number of these circumstances, and literally dozens more, can explain why you were arrested.  Well, there’s no sense in beating yourself up over it now.  It probably happened a long time ago, when you were a different person.  You know you’re not a criminal and the likelihood is that you’ve long since come to peace with the uncomfortable fact that you were arrested.  In fact, I suspect you’d just like to forget the whole thing happened.

Well, you can forget it happened, but not everyone else will!

Have you ever wondered what happened to your court file or the police reports?  Have you ever wondered if your arrest left you with a permanent record?  And if so, have you ever wondered who has access to that record and what that means to you?  Should you even worry about it?

If you’ve been arrested in Rhode Island, the likelihood is extremely high that you do have a permanent criminal record, even if the criminal case was dismissed!

You know what’s even worse?  The State of Rhode Island has made it disturbingly easy for ANYONE to conduct a criminal background check on you.

That should definitely worry you!

So, even though you may like to forget or hide the fact that you were arrested, the fact remains that others, perhaps even a potential or current employer, may hold your arrest record against you.

Now, what if I told you that your criminal record could be wiped out like it never existed, by having it EXPUNGED or SEALED?  Does that interest you?  If so, keep reading.

What Will You Learn By Reading This Page?

You will learn, among other things:

1.  How disturbingly easy it is for ANYONE to perform a criminal background search on you,

2.  How to perform an unofficial and official criminal background search on yourself,

3.  What it means to have your criminal record EXPUNGED,

4.  What it means to have your criminal records “SEALED”,

5.  Whether, under Rhode Island law, you qualify to have your criminal record Expunged or Sealed, and

6.  What to do if you are eligible to have your records ‘Expunged’ or ‘Sealed’.

It Is Disturbingly Easy For Anyone To Perform A Criminal Background Check On You!

In today’s high-tech, instant access world, your privacy is always at risk.  An example of that risk can be found at the State of Rhode Island Judiciary Web Page.  There, the Rhode Island Judiciary has made it brain-dead easy for ANYONE to perform a criminal background check on you.  All that’s required is a computer with internet access.  After that, your arrest record is just a mouse-click away.

Is that troubling to you?  If you have a skeleton in your closet, it should be.

Here’s how to perform your own “unofficial” criminal background search.  Once you have completed this, come back to my site for lots more information:

1.  Go to http://courtconnect.courts.ri.gov/pls/ri_adult/ck_public_qry_main.cp_main_idx,

2.  Click on Search by Defendant Name,

3. Read the disclaimer and click “Accept”,

4.  Type your name where instructed and click “Submit”.

That’s it.

If you did not find your name on what I call the “List”, don’t breathe too easy.  While that’s good news, all it could really mean is that your name simply hasn’t been added to the List . . . yet.  This site is constantly being updated.  In other words, names are always being added.  And if you have an arrest in your past, your name could be next.

Keep in mind that this is an “unofficial” criminal background search.  If you did not read the site’s disclaimer, go back and read it.  Clearly the Rhode Island Judiciary took great pains to notify you that the information contained in its website is provided as an “informational service only” and “does not constitute and should not be relied upon as an official record of the Court.”

Why did the Rhode Island Judiciary go through such great pains to add such a thorough disclaimer?  Perhaps it is because the information posted on that site may not be entirely accurate?

Isn’t that just fantastic?

So, not only can ANYONE conduct a background check on you in just seconds, but the information discovered about you may not be accurate!  I hope you didn’t find your name on the “List”, but if you did, it is time to get it removed before anyone else finds it.

How To Perform An “Official” Criminal Background Search On Yourself!

The Investigations Unit of the Rhode Island Department of the Attorney General was created in 1987.  This Unit is commonly referred to as the Bureau of Criminal Investigation/Identification, or the BCI Unit for short.

The stated purpose of the BCI Unit is to “assist attorneys in carrying out investigations relating to grand jury matters, pretrial preparation and other litigation efforts.”  In addition, “the Unit assists generally in the investigative efforts of other state, local, and federal law enforcement agencies.”

As a practical matter, the BCI Unit keeps track of the names of all individuals charged with a criminal offense in the State of Rhode Island.  I call this the “Official List”.

The BCI Unit would tell you that the information it maintains is “confidential” and for “law enforcement.”  But is that entirely true?  I think you already know the answer.

You already know how disturbingly easy it is for anyone to conduct an unofficial criminal background search on you.  But did you know that if your employer or potential employer has $5.00, they can obtain the same “confidential information” used by “law enforcement?”

Can They Do That?

Yes.  In today’s post-September 11th society, more and more employers are requiring criminal background checks for new applicants.  In some instances employers are requiring current employees to give them permission to conduct a criminal background check.

If you even think this could happen where you work, you should know there may be nothing you can do to stop it.  Well, that’s not entirely true.  You could, for example, tear up the employment application, or if you already work there, you could quit.  It seems that in either case, the cure might be worse than the disease.

So, while there may be little or nothing you can do to stop the criminal background search, you can control whether you name appears on either the List or the Official List by having your arrest record wiped out.

Here’s how easy it is for you or your current or prospective employer to order an “official” criminal background check on you:

For You By Mail:

1.  You must sign and have notarized a written release for information,

2.  You must provide a copy of photo identification attached to release,

3.  You must include a check or money order (NO CASH) for $5.00 payable to BCI

4.  You must enclose a self-addressed stamped envelope for return.

In seven (7) business days, you will receive your “official” criminal background check.

For You In Person:

1.  Go to the BCI Unit at the Main Office of the Rhode Island Department of the Attorney General,

2.  You must bring Photo Identification, usually a driver’s license or a State of Rhode Island Identification Card,

3.  Do not forget to bring a check or money order (NO CASH) for $5.00 payable to BCI.
Before you leave, you should receive your “official” criminal background check.

For Third Party: (Such as an employer or potential employer)

1.  Once again, a release (Signed by you and notarized),

2.  A copy of photo identification attached to release,

3.  A check or money order (NO CASH) for $5.00 payable to BCI,

4.  An enclosed self-addressed stamped envelope for return.

In seven (7) business days, you may find out whether you got the job or received the dreaded rejection letter.  Even worse, you may find out whether you get the ‘Pink Slip’ from your current employer.

What Is An Expungement Of An Arrest Record?

Expungement of an arrest record is defined by Rhode Island law as the ‘sealing’ of all records of a conviction.  It is the conduit which allows for a Rhode Island Court to order all records and information related to that conviction, (such as police reports, finger prints and mug shots, etc.) to be removed from active files and all indexes and references to it deleted.

How Do You Know If You Were Convicted?

For the purpose of expunging your arrest record, a conviction is any admission of wrong doing, including a plea of guilty, nolo contendere and the rare Alford plea.  Here’s an easy method to remember if you were convicted:

1.  If you were found not guilty after trial, you were NOT convicted.

2.  If the prosecution dismissed your criminal charges, you were NOT convicted.

3.  If your criminal charge was resolved in any other way than just described, such as a “Nolo” filing, or a period of probation, for the purposes of having your arrest record expunged, you WERE convicted.

What Does An Expungement Do For You?

It means that your name will be removed form the List and the Official List!  It also means that you can legally say that you were never convicted of the criminal case you had expunged!

Additionally, the general public cannot gain access to your sensitive information because no ‘official record’ of the case exists.  It is like the whole nightmare never happened!  After your arrest record is Expunged under Rhode Island law you are legally absolved of all penalties and disabilities resulting from the conviction.  Going forward, in any application for employment, license, or other civil right or privilege, or any appearance as a witness, you may state that you were never convicted of any crime.

What If You Were Exonerated?

If you were exonerated of the criminal charges you do not need an Expungement, you need have the record ‘Sealed’.

To be exonerated is defined as:

1.  An acquittal, such as being found not guilty after trial,

2.  A dismissal, usually when the prosecutor files a Motion to Dismiss under Rule 48 of either the District Court Rules of Criminal Procedure or the Superior Court Rules of Criminal Procedure,

3.  A ‘No True Bill,’ such as when a grand jury decides there is not enough evidence to prosecute a felony criminal charge and therefore refuses to return an indictment before an arraignment in the Superior Court,

4.  A ‘No Information,’ such as when the Department of the Attorney General declines to prosecute a felony charge before an arraignment in the Superior Court, and

5.  Being ‘otherwise exonerated’ of the criminal charge, such as when the Rhode Island Supreme Court reverses a conviction.

What Does A “Motion To Seal” Do For You?

Well, having your arrest record Sealed means that your name will be removed from the List and the ‘Official List’!  As it should be!

If the Court grants your ‘Motion to Seal’, it orders the Clerk of the Court to place all records related to your case, including those maintained by the BCI Unit, under Seal.  This means that the general public cannot gain access to your sensitive information because no ‘official record’ of the case exists.  It is like the whole nightmare never happened!

And this MUST occur within 45 days of the date the Court grants your ‘Motion to Seal.’

But there’s more.

If you were exonerated the law requires the complete obliteration of any fingerprint, photograph, physical measurement or other record of identification taken by, or in the custody or possession of, the Department of the Attorney General, the Rhode Island State Police, local police departments or any other officer authorized by Rhode Island law.

And this MUST occur within 60 days of the exoneration without you having to do anything!

Of course, that does not always happen.  In fact, my guess is that it rarely happens.  So, until you take some affirmative steps to have your arrest record Sealed and all records of identification destroyed, you should assume that your name appears or soon will appear on either the ‘List’ or the ‘Official List’.

Is There A Difference Between Having The Record Expunged and Having It Sealed?

Yes, there is.  As you now know a “Motion to Expunge” applies only in cases where you have been convicted.  A “Motion to Seal” applies when you have been exonerated.  While they both get your name removed from the ‘List’ and the ‘Official List’, (and that should be reason enough to motivate you to get rid of that skeleton in your closet), there are statutory exceptions that apply to the “Motion to Expunge” that simply is not required for a “Motion to Seal.”

For most people this is a distinction without a difference.  In other words, there are no practical differences between having a record Expunged or Sealed.  For some people, however, the difference is as plain as the difference between ham and hamburger.

What Is The Difference Between An Expungement And Having A Record Sealed?

In a nut shell, if you have your record Expunged, you still must disclose its existence if you apply for a position of public trust.  If you have your record Sealed, there is no such requirement.

Expungement Disclosure Requirements

Under Rhode Island statutory law, you must disclose the existence of a conviction, even if it has been expunged, if you apply for:

1.  A position with a law enforcement agency,

2.  Admission to the Bar of any Court,

3.  A teaching certificate under Rhode Island General Laws § 16-11-1 et seq.,

4.  A coaching certificate under Rhode Island General Laws § 16-11.1-1 et seq., and

5.  A position as the operator or employee of an early childhood education facility under Rhode Island General Laws § 16-48.1-1 et seq.

That’s it.  There are no other Expungement statutory disclosure requirements.

The common bond amongst these statutory disclosure requirements is that they concern positions of public trust, such as being a police officer, or any position where the applicant would be responsible for the safety and well-being of children.

Apart from the aforementioned, very specific and statutorily limited exceptions, an Expungement completely accomplishes your goal of getting rid of that skeleton in your closet.

Disclosure Requirements For A Sealed Record

Under Rhode Island statutory law, there are no disclosure requirements for a sealed record.  If you think about it, this makes sense because you were exonerated you should never have to disclose the existence of an arrest.  And here’s an example of why this is so:

Sometime around 2000 or 2001, I represented an individual who was stopped by a local police department for a traffic offense.  For our purposes I will call this individual Steve.  While performing a routine driver’s license check, the officer learned that Steve’s license was suspended for unpaid court fines associated with a previous conviction for driving on a suspended license.  As a result, the officer arrested Steve and charged him with the crime of driving on a suspended license, second or subsequent offense.

When I received the case I first determined that the officer did nothing wrong.  Steve’s driver’s license was in fact lawfully suspended for failure to pay fines associated with a previous conviction for driving on a suspended license.  However, as it turned out, Steve had never been arrested before that fateful day.

How was that possible?  If Steve had never been arrested before, how could he have a previous conviction?

The answer of course, was simple.  Steve had an identical twin brother whom I will call Kevin.  Kevin had a rather lengthy criminal record.  Of course, Kevin also had a suspended license but felt he deserved the right to drive anyway.  So one day while driving, Kevin was stopped by the police.  Knowing he would be arrested for driving on a suspended license, Kevin told the officers that he lost his wallet and therefore did not have his license on him.  He then told the police that his name was “Steve,” (not Kevin), and provided the police with “Steve’s” date of birth, “new” and “old” addresses and social security number by which they could confirm that he was in fact “Steve.”

The officers then returned to their cruiser and pulled up “Steve’s” driver’s license photograph.  This corroborated “Steve’s” lost wallet story.  The officers then gave “Steve” a traffic ticket that Kevin never paid.  As a result, the real Steve’s driver’s license became suspended.

Kevin repeated this little ruse several more times.  Eventually, Kevin appeared before the District Court as “Steve” and was convicted of the criminal offense of operating on a suspended driver’s license.  Naturally, the real Steve had no clue any of this happened.

So, what’s the moral of the story?  If anybody’s record ever cried out to be Sealed it was Steve’s.  He should never, ever have to disclose the fact that he was arrested to anyone, anywhere, anytime.

And that this example shows why there are no disclosure requirements for someone who was exonerated and had their record Sealed.

Are You Eligible To have Your Record Expunged Or Sealed?

Unfortunately, I cannot give you a definitive answer to this all important question because that would be giving legal advice and, as I previously stated, I cannot do that here.  Each case is unique, and therefore requires the personal attention it deserves.  However, there are certain statutory requirements that apply to all cases.  If your case meets these requirements, there’s a very good chance you can have your record Expunged or Sealed.   Below is a summary of the requirements necessary to have your case sealed or expunged:

Expungement Eligibility Requirements

You Must Be A First Offender

If you are a ‘First Offender’ you may ask a Court to Expunge your record.  You are a ‘First Offender’ if you have only one conviction AND there are no criminal charges pending against you at the time you ask to have your record Expunged.

If you were convicted of multiple criminal charges based on a single arrest, you are still a ‘First Offender’ and may ask to have your record Expunged.  If however, you have multiple convictions from more than a single arrest, you are NOT considered a ‘First Offender’ and the chances of getting your record Expunged are very poor.

Misdemeanor Conviction Waiting Period

If you were convicted of a misdemeanor, you must wait 5 years from the completion of your sentence to have your record Expunged.  This is the ‘Waiting Period.’  For example, suppose you were convicted of simple assault on January 1, 2000.  Further suppose that you were placed on probation for one year.  That means you would be required to wait until January 1, 2006 before you could have your record Expunged.

Felony Conviction Waiting Period

If you were convicted of a felony, you must wait 10 years from the completion of your sentence to have your record Expunged.  For example, suppose you were convicted of felony assault on January 1, 2000.  Further suppose that you were placed on probation for two years.  That means you would be required to wait until January 1, 2012 before you could have your record Expunged.

Good Moral Character During The Waiting Period

Not only must you wait the required time before your record can be Expunged, you must also demonstrate ‘Good Moral Character’ during the Waiting Period.  No one is exactly sure what means.  How does someone exhibit ‘Good Moral Character,’ and who is paying attention?

What exhibiting ‘Good Moral Character’ means could vary from case to case, which is another good reason is why it is so important to seek the services of an attorney to help you Expunge your record.  That said, if you get arrested or convicted of another criminal offense during the Waiting Period, you probably have NOT demonstrated the ‘Good Moral Character’ necessary to obtain an Expungement.

Crimes of Violence Can’t Be Expunged

If you were convicted of any of the following Crimes of Violence you are statutorily disqualified from having your record Expunged:

1.  Murder
2.  Manslaughter
3.  First Degree Arson
4.  Kidnapping with Intent to Extort
5.  Robbery
6.  Larceny from a Person
7.  First or Second Degree Sexual Assault
8.  First or Second Degree Child Molestation
9.  Assault with Intent to Murder
10.  Assault with Intent to Rob
11.  Assault with Intent to Commit First Degree Sexual Assault
12.  Burglary
13.  Entering a Dwelling House with Intent to Commit Murder
14.  Entering a Dwelling House with Intent to Commit Robbery
15.  Entering a Dwelling House with Intent to Commit Sexual Assault
16.  Entering a Dwelling House with Intent to Commit Larceny

Eligibility Requirements To Have Your Record Sealed

Unlike having your record Expunged, there are only two requirements you must meet to have your record Sealed.  First, you had to be exonerated as previously described.  Second, you can’t have any previous felony convictions on your record.

That’s it.

You don’t have to be a ‘First Offender.’  There is no ‘Waiting Period.’  You do not have to demonstrate ‘Good Moral Character’ and ANY criminal offense can be Sealed.  This is logical because you were exonerated of the charged offenses.

Suppose you were convicted of simple assault on January 1, 2000 and received a one year term of probation, so that the probation expires at 11:59 P.M. on December 31, 2000.  Further suppose you were convicted of the same offense on January 1, 2002 and received the same sentence.  Finally, suppose on January 1, 2004 you were exonerated of the charge of felony assault.  While you would probably not be eligible to ever have either of the first two misdemeanor offense records Expunged for the reasons previously explained, you could have the felony offense record Sealed.

Now, assume that on January 1, 2000 you were convicted of felony assault.  If at a later date you are arrested and subsequently exonerated for any new criminal charge, you would probably be disqualified from having that second offense Sealed.  This is because of the previous felony conviction.  Now, whether or not the word conviction means the same thing for having records Sealed as it does for having records Expunged is debatable and has not been decided by the Rhode Island Supreme Court.  This is yet another reason to seek the services of a qualified attorney to help you.

A Filing is Different

Generally speaking, there are only four different types of criminal sentences under Rhode Island law.  A criminal defendant who in any way admits to the offense or if adjudicated guilty can expect to receive any of the following as punishment:

1.  Filing
2.  Probation
3.  Suspended Sentence, and
4.  Time to Serve.

Probation can be supervised or unsupervised, depending on what, if any, conditions the sentencing Court imposes, such as community service, counseling or restitution.

A Suspended Sentence means that the Court imposed prison time, but suspended the service of that prison time, in part or in whole.  A suspended sentence is almost always accompanied by probation and includes additional conditions.

Time to Serve is just what it sounds like.  It means serving real prison time behind real bars.

A Filing is different.  It is neither a conviction nor exoneration.  In laymen’s terms, a filing means that the criminal complaint is figuratively placed in a filing drawer for one year.  If there has been no further activity on the criminal complaint after the year is over, the whole record, (complaint, police reports, photographs, etc.) are supposed to be automatically removed from the filing drawer and destroyed as if the whole affair never happened.

Sounds nice, doesn’t it?  The whole sordid affair gets destroyed and you don’t have to do anything to make it happen.  That is nice.  In fact, it almost sounds too good to be true.  And do you know why? Because it is too good to be true!

The clerk’s office of each Court does a great job.  However, they are over worked and generally speaking, understaffed.  One clerk told me that the District Court alone processes almost 50,000 new criminal cases every year!  Of those 50,000, even if only 10% resulted in ‘Filings’ (and I suspect the actual percentage is much greater than 10%), that means 5,000 cases were ‘Filed.’  That means that the following year the clerk’s office would not only have to process another 50,000 new cases, but would also have to destroy the 5,000 ‘Filed’ cases.  And this does not factor in the thousands and thousands of civil cases processed every year.

What does this mean to you?  It means that as a practical matter, while some, and perhaps most ‘Filings’ are destroyed and ‘Expunged,’ there are many that are not.  So, if you received a ‘Filing’, and you run the risk that the clerk’s office is going to Expunge the record automatically and you run the very real risk of seeing your name appear on the ‘List’ and the ‘Official List’ until you do something about it.

What Is Your Next Step?

The next step is entirely up to you.  Do you want to continue to run the risk that no one will ever conduct a criminal background check on you, or do you want to be proactive and do something about that Skeleton in your Closet?  One thing is for sure, if you do nothing, nothing will change.

By now you are probably wondering how to get your record Expunged or Sealed?  Start by contacting and hiring a good lawyer to represent you.  I know that finding a good lawyer can be very difficult.  Most people don’t know where to look to find one or who to ask to get a referral.  I believe by writing this Web Page I have taken the guess work out of finding the right lawyer for you.

At Robo Law I have assisted scores of clients get their criminal records wiped out.  If you think I can help you, the best way to reach me is to call me at (401) 284-7730 or at (401) 862-9520.  Just ask for me, Michael Robinson.