Understanding Pleas and Expungement in the Rhode Island Court System

What is the difference between a Guilty and a Nolo Contendere plea? What are the consequences of different pleas in Rhode Island? What types of cases can be expunged? This article by RI Attorney Kevin Hagan discusses the different types of pleas and how each type of disposition can affect one’s eligibility for expungement.

Rhode Island Drivers: A New Hope

A new law enacted on June 18, 2013 now creates an avenue for Traffic Court records to be erased and the memories of tough times can be brought to a close. The Act, introduced by Senators McCaffrey and Lynch, has amended the Rhode Island law in a way that many find helpful.

The language of the statute is as follows:

“31-41.1-10. Expungement. -- All violations within this title which are in the jurisdictionof the traffic tribunal or of a municipal court shall by operation of law, after three (3) years,following adjudication of the violation and after expiration of any mandatory state or federalrecord-retention period, be expunged from the records of the traffic tribunal or theMunicipal court and from the records of the division of motor vehicles, except for those offensesrelated to alcohol as provided in section 31-27-2.1, which shall be expunged after five (5) years.These expungements shall be in addition to and not in place of any expungementprovided for by chapter 1.3 of title 12”.

This new Act will allow for the record of a traffic offense to be purged from the files of the agencies entrusted with their keeping. This will allow citizens to move on after what can be an incredibly expensive, stressful and inconvenient time in their lives. The (3) year waiting period will expedite and memorialize the process for which a file can be permanently erased, without waiting for a motion to be filed or action to be taken. This new Act helps create a system of renewal in which drivers will not be plagued by that traffic offense that “happened a few years back.” In this new system, many drivers will realize a benefit later in their lives, after years of safe driving.

As a cautionary instruction, motorists should ensure that their driving abstract has been properly purged by ordering a copy on line at:
www.ri.gov/dmv/mvr/citizen/. In the event that your record has not been erased, a motion for corrective action should be filed at the Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal. Happy and safe driving to all.

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Rhode Island Expungement Lawyer

“Expungement” is a legal procedure. It allows eligible and deserving individuals to have any and all records relating to their criminal charges removed, both from public records and those of law enforcement agencies. Many times, although a case has been dismissed or the filing period has expired, the records of the arrest are not automatically expunged. In my experience, many people discover this fact the hard way.

Of course not anyone with a criminal record is eligible for expungement -the law provides that any criminal charge, with the exception of a “crime of violence”, is eligible for expungement. The law defines a “crime of violence” as follows: murder, manslaughter, first degree arson, kidnapping with intent to extort, robbery, larceny from the person, first degree sexual assault, second degree sexual assault, first and second degree child molestation, assault with intent to murder, assault with intent to rob, assault with intent to commit first degree sexual assault, burglary, and entering a dwelling house with intent to commit murder, robbery, sexual assault, or larceny. Anyone convicted of a “crime of violence” is ineligible for “expungement”. Anyone who is a “first offender” is eligible to have their criminal record expunged.

The law defines a “first offender” as follows: a person who has not been previously convicted of or placed on probation for a felony or a misdemeanor and against whom there is no criminal proceeding pending in any court.
Anyone convicted or placed on probation on more than one occasion is ineligible for expungement. The waiting period for expungement is as follows:

For misdemeanors - (5) years after the successful completion (no intervening convictions, probation, or pending cases) of your sentence and/or probation.

For felonies - (10) years after the successful completion (no intervening convictions, probation, or pending cases) of your sentence and/or probation.

Whether you are eligible and deserving of an expungement must be determined by a judge of the court that originally heard the case. As mentioned previously in order to be eligible to have your criminal record expunged you must be a “first offender” and not have been convicted of a “crime of violence”.

The law also requires that in order to have your criminal record expunged you must be deserving of it. That is, you must be able to demonstrate to the court’s satisfaction that you are of good moral character; have been rehabilitated and; the expungement of your criminal record is consistent with the public interest, proof of which can include but is not limited to the following:
o Regular employment and financial and other support of family
o Successful completion of substance abuse and/or mental health counseling.
o Community or other public service
o Professional certification or licensing in field of employment
o Otherwise eligible for induction into the armed forces of the United States

The actual procedure for obtaining expungement is commenced by filing a motion to expunge with the court. Some but not all courts have blank motions to expunge that you can fill out and file with the court yourself. An attorney can assist you with completing the necessary paperwork including scheduling the motion for a hearing and giving you the date that it will be heard by the court. After filing the motion to expunge you are required to give notice of the date that it will be heard by the court to the Department of Attorney General and the police department that originally brought the charge. On the day that your motion to expunge is heard by the court you should be prepared to provide the following information about yourself to the judge hearing the motion:
o Have not been convicted or received probation for a “crime of violence”
o Are a “first offender”
o Possess good moral character
o Have been successfully rehabilitated and
o The expungement of your criminal record is consistent with the public interest

If your motion to expunge is granted, the court will provide you with copies of an order requiring that any and all records relating to the expunged case be deleted from the public record. A copy of this expungement order should be mailed to the Department of Attorney General and any other law enforcement agency known to have copies of these records. With certain very limited exceptions, any person having his or her record expunged shall be released from all penalties and disabilities resulting from the crime of which he or she had been convicted.

Again, with certain very limited exceptions, in any application for employment, license, or other civil right or privilege, or any appearance as a witness, a person whose conviction of a crime has been expunged pursuant to this chapter may state that he or she has never been convicted of the crime. According to RIGL § 12-1 3-4 (b), any person who is "an applicant for a law enforcement agency position, for admission to the bar of any court, an applicant for a teaching certificate, under chapter 11 of title 12, a coaching certificate under § 16-11. 1-1, or the operator or employee of an early childhood educational facility pursuant to chapter 48-1 of title 16," is required to disclose the fact of a conviction.