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Bill to expunge records passes House committee

Criminal records can be difficult to recover from, and in Rhode Island, lawmakers are attempting to make past convictions a thing of the past. The Providence Journal reports that a new bill, which would allow up to five misdemeanors to be expunged from an offender’s record, was unanimously approved by the important Rhode Island House Judiciary Committee. The bill has not yet become law, and a similar measure died in the state Senate last year.

The legislation could help clear the records of thousands who previously broke the law. To qualify, the last misdemeanor must be at least 10 years old, and the person requesting expungement cannot have been convicted of a different offense since. Those in favor of the law say that these old offenses keep people who have paid for their crimes from being able to secure housing or to find employment. Rhode Island does bar employers from asking applicants about past criminal records before the “first interview.” Current state law allows for the expungement of a non-violent first offense, five years after conviction for a misdemeanor. Expungement for a felony requires a ten-year wait. The proposed legislation does not apply to felonies at all.

As GoLocalProv explains, under the proposed bill, a judge would review the Petition for Expungement, and after looking into the history of the past offender determines if expungement should be granted. This would not be an automatic outcome, and those who are eligible would be required to file a petition to begin the expungement process.

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