In Rhode Island, your criminal record may be expunged -- that is, erased or sealed -- under the circumstances described below. If your record is expunged, it will no longer be visible to the general public, including potential employers. In most cases, you may say that you were never arrested or convicted of a crime.
If You Were Not Convicted of a Crime
If any of the following are true, your criminal record may qualify for sealing:
- you were acquitted
- the charges against you were dismissed
- there was no true bill or “no information,” or
- you were otherwise exonerated.
If you were charged with a complaint for a domestic violence offense, you must wait three years before asking to have your record sealed.
Your record will not be sealed if you have ever been convicted of a felony.
(Rhode Island Statutes §§ 12-1-12 and 12-1-12.1.)
If You Were Convicted of a Crime
If you are a first offender and you were convicted of a crime other than a crime of violence, your criminal record may qualify for expungement. Crimes of violence include murder, manslaughter, robbery, burglary, larceny, most types of assault, first degree arson, kidnapping with the intent to extort, and most sex crimes.
Misdemeanor convictions. You may petition for expungement five years after successfully completing your sentence.
Felony convictions. You may petition for expungement ten years after successfully completing your sentence.
For any type of conviction, your petition will be granted only if a judge determines that you are of good moral character and that allowing the expungement is in the public interest.
(Rhode Island Statutes §§ 12-1.3-1 to 12-1.3-4.)
How to File
You must file your petition in the court where the original case was heard. Some courts provide forms that you can fill out and file yourself. For more information, contact the court clerk’s office.
Getting Legal Help
Cleaning up a criminal history can be complicated. If you are not sure whether your record qualifies for expungement in Rhode Island -- or for advice about your personal situation -- you should contact a qualified criminal law attorney. A good lawyer can guide you each step of the way.