How to Expunge my Public Records in Rhode Island

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In Rhode Island, deleting a public record means removing it completely from the public domain. Once deleted, the record is no longer available to anyone to access but restricted by the government agency that prepared it. The individual named on the record may therefore proceed as if the deleted record no longer exists. There are many reasons to seek to delete a public record. The most common reasons given for wishing to deleting public records are:

  • To keep confidential information from becoming widely known. Such confidential information include medical records, financial records, and social security numbers
  • To protect individuals named in these records from harm, retaliation, and harassment. Sensitive details in some records may pose imminent danger to named individuals when they become public knowledge
  • To protect minors. Rhode Island is open to removing details that can identify minors from public records
  • To better reflect the outcomes of overturned convictions and pardons

Truly deleting a public record is impossible. As soon as a record enters the public domain, it is duplicated outside government repositories and likely available from third-party sources. Deleting the record stored in the official repositories does not scrub it from third-party databases. Therefore, it may still be possible to obtain a deleted record online. The most effective way to delete a record is to do so before it becomes public.

What Is a Public Record in Rhode Island?

Rhode Island broadly defines public records as all materials generated or collected by public entities in the course of conducting their official duties. These entities may be individuals, public organizations, and government agencies. The materials covered by this definition include all documents and information presented in physical and digital forms including text, audio, and video records.

Rhode Island enshrined the public’s right to these records in its Access to Public Records Act. This Act was first enacted in 1979 and has been modified three times. These revisions occurred in 1991, 1998, and 2008. Members of the public can request access to its public records by submitting their requests to the appropriate entities maintaining the records wanted. Examples of public records in Rhode Island include:

  • Personnel records of government officials and employees
  • Court records
  • Arrest records
  • Criminal records
  • Motor vehicle records
  • Financial records

Not all records in these categories are open. For example, Rhode Island keeps law enforcement records closed if doing so will protect confidential sources and prevent interference with current investigations. Similarly, some court records are closed by court order. Overall, the state employs a balancing test to determine which records are public and which are confidential. Rhode Island exempts records that may create unwarranted invasion of individual privacy from the public domain.

Privacy concern is just one reason to seal your records. You may want to try expunging or sealing records from an overturned or pardoned conviction to avoid disclosing them to potential employers. If left unexpunged, such records may show up in background checks conducted when applying for credit, renting an apartment, or volunteering for a cause.

Rhode Island offers official means of sealing and expunging qualifying public records. We also provide record-sealing services for residents of Rhode Island. Those wishing to ensure past convictions do not limit available opportunities in the future can use these services to seal or expunge their records.

Does Rhode Island Allow Expungement?

Yes. Rhode Island allows certain records of criminal convictions to be erased. However, only a few records are considered for expungement. In Rhode Island, it is possible to expunge records related to the following:

  • Decriminalized offenses
  • Dismissed criminal charges
  • Overturned criminal convictions
  • Deferred sentences

Those convicted of offenses that are now decriminalized in Rhode Island may apply to have their records expunged. Decriminalized offenses that qualify for expungement in Rhode Island are:

  • Possession of marijuana in small amounts
  • First and second offense driving on a suspended license

How Do I Expunge My Criminal Record in Rhode Island?

The first step is determining whether you qualify to have your criminal record expunged in Rhode Island. Rhode Island only makes certain criminal convictions and arrests eligible for expunction. Most of these are misdemeanor offenses and non-violent crimes. The state also considers other factors when deciding on eligibility for expunging criminal records. Complete and submit the Expungement Online Application to find out if you are eligible for expungement in Rhode Island.

Rhode Island requires those with non-violent misdemeanor convictions to wait 5 years before they begin the process of expunging their records. Individuals with non-violent felony convictions must wait 10 years before requesting expungement. In both cases, the state requires that individuals must not be convicted for another crime or violate their parole terms during these wait periods to be eligible for expunging the records of their original convictions.

Those convicted for committing violent crimes do not qualify for expungement at all in Rhode Island. Violent crimes include assault, theft, robbery, burglary, arson, kidnapping, manslaughter, and murder.

To start the process of expunging your criminal record, first obtain certified copies of this record from the Rhode Island Bureau of Criminal Identification (BCI). You can do so in person at:

Rhode Island Office of the Attorney General

4 Howard Avenue

Cranston, RI 02920

Alternatively, you may submit a mail request for this record using a signed and notarized BCI Disclaimer Form. Send the completed form along with a copy of a valid photo ID, a self-addressed stamped envelope, and a check or money order for $5 made out to BCI.

To expunge the records of a case finalized over 3 years ago, obtain certified copies from the Rhode Island Judicial Records Center located at:

5 Hill Street

Pawtucket, RI 02860

(401) 721-2641

The Records Center charges $3 per case for a certified copy of a court record.

After obtaining a copy of your record, file a motion and an affidavit in the Rhode Island court where the conviction was handed down. File this with the Motion to Expunge or Seal Record application. Rhode Island accepts a motion for the expungement of up to five misdemeanor convictions as long as the individual has not been convicted of a felony.

To successfully navigate the expungement process, it is best to retain the services of a criminal defense attorney. If filing the motion yourself, you may seek help from the Office of the Clerk at the court where the motion is filed. The Clerk’s Office will also agree on and set a hearing date for the motion. The individual filing the motion must then give notice of the hearing and the date chosen to the Office of the Attorney General as well as the police department that charged them for the offense. These government agencies must receive the notice at least 10 days before the date set for the hearing.

During the hearing, you must argue before the court that you have met all the requirements of having your criminal record expunged. The court must also be convinced of your rehabilitation to grant this motion. If the court grants the motion to have your criminal record expunged, it will require that you pay the sum of $100 before ordering the criminal record expunged and that all indexed information about it as well as references to it made inaccessible to the public.

When the court gives the order to expunge a criminal record, it sends copies of this order to law enforcement agencies and other agencies known by the court, the Office of the Attorney General, and the petitioner to keep this record. These agencies must then delete or destroy the record in compliance with the court order.

Will My Expungement Record Show Up in a Background Check in Rhode Island?

No. Rhode Island orders state law enforcement agencies and other related entities to remove all mentions of a record once it is expunged. Expungement in Rhode Island is, therefore, a complete erasure of records. Subsequent background checks will not find leftover information, placeholders, or similar indications that a criminal record was expunged. However, expunged Rhode Island records are still visible to federal law enforcement agencies such as the FBI.

How to Seal a Record in Rhode Island

The steps required to seal a record in Rhode Island are similar to those taken when expunging records. First, determine that your record is eligible for sealing. To be eligible to seal a record, Rhode Island requires that:

  • Your case ended in one of the following: no true bill, no information, or dismissal. You must also have no prior felony conviction;
  • You are found not guilty at trial; or
  • You are wrongfully arrested

Wrongful arrest due to mistaken identity or some other reason is grounds to have the arrest record sealed or expunged even if you had a previous felony conviction. A past felony conviction also does not disqualify you from having your record sealed if found not guilty.

Those charged with misdemeanor offenses may also apply to have their records sealed in Rhode Island. The state requires that a misdemeanor offender must wait 1 year to file a motion to seal their records. For misdemeanor offenses involving domestic violence, the wait period is 3 years.

If you believe you qualify to have your record sealed, file a motion in the court where the case was tried and record generated. File the motion with a Motion to Expunge or Seal Record application. Get a court date for a hearing and communicate this to the Office of the Attorney General and the law enforcement agency that charged you with the offense at least 10 days before the hearing date.

In court, convince the judge that you meet the requirements of having your record sealed and have been rehabilitated. If the court grants the motion, it will provide an order that you can send to all agencies maintaining and referencing the sealed record.

Who Can See My Sealed Record in Rhode Island?

Rhode Island allows certain individuals access to sealed records. Individuals and organizations that can access a sealed record in Rhode Island include:

  • The individual whose record was sealed
  • A sentencing court convicted this individual of another crime
  • A bar agency reviewing the individual’s past records when considering them for bar admission or investigating them for disciplinary matters
  • The commissioner of an elementary or secondary education facility
  • A law enforcement agency investigate a possible offense that may be linked to a past offense
  • Anyone with a court order authorizing access to the sealed record

How to Delete Bankruptcy Records in Rhode Island

The United States Bankruptcy Court in the District of Rhode Island handles bankruptcy matters in the state. Individuals that file for bankruptcy in the state have these records on their credit reports. Repaying their debts and reacquiring good credit scores do not necessarily remove bankruptcy records from their credit reports.

The only way to remove a valid bankruptcy record from your credit report is to let it lapse and be automatically removed. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) established timelines for these. For example, a Chapter 7 bankruptcy record will stay on your credit report for a maximum of 10 years while a Chapter 13 bankruptcy record will be in place for up to 7 years. An FCRA-compliant background check will reflect these changes after the stipulated periods. However, a non-FCRA compliant record check may still show bankruptcy records even after these periods elapse.

It is possible to remove a bankruptcy filing from your credit report if an error was made in the record. Such errors include incorrect names, addresses, and dates as well as the record staying on your report for longer than the stipulated time. To delete such a bankruptcy record error, you may:

  • Report it to the credit bureau responsible for the error and provide proper identification and proof that the record contested is erroneous
  • File a case with the United States Bankruptcy Court in Rhode Island District
  • Report it as a bankruptcy fraud to the United States Trustee Program, a unit of the Department of Justice

What Are Consumer Protection Laws in Rhode Island?

The Office of the Attorney General of Rhode Island has a Consumer Protection Unit tasked with consumers’ complaints about unfair and unlawful practices of businesses catering to the residents of the state. The Unit also receives complaints about deceptive advertising from entities violating the state’s Deceptive Trade Practices Act.

There are six well-defined consumer protection laws in Rhode Island. These are:

  • Rhode Island Telemarketing Fraud Law
  • Rhode Island Deceptive Trade Practice Law
  • Rhode Island Identity Theft Law
  • Rhode Island Antitrust Law
  • Rhode Island Homestead Law
  • Rhode Island Lemon Law

Rhode Island also has a Consumer Privacy Protection Act (CPPA) that applies to for-profit entities operating in the state and collecting, storing, and using consumers’ personal information. This regulations encoded in this Act applies to any business operating in the state that meets any one of the following criteria:

  • An annual gross revenue above $5 million
  • Collects personal information from 50,000 or more consumers, households, or devices
  • Gets 50% or more of its annual revenue from selling personal information

How to Delete Lien Records in Rhode Island

If you lose a court case brought by a creditor against you, there is a good chance that there is a judgement lien on your home or some other property. A judgement lien gives the creditor an assurance that they will be paid a certain amount from the proceeds from the sale of the property. Rhode Island requires the creditor 48 hours to attach a lien to the debtor’s home and this lien can be in place for up to 20 years even if the property changes hands.

A homeowner may be unaware of such a lien. To find out if there is a lien attached to your home or property, contact the land records office in the town or city where the property is located. This is usually the Office of the Register of Deeds or Town Clerk Rhode Island. Some Rhode Island towns and clerks put their lien and property records online. You may search on the website of the town or city to see if it is possible to search lien records online.

If you find a lien on your home, the easiest way to remove it is to pay the creditor and request its removal. However, it is also possible to remove a lien record in Rhode Island through bankruptcy. If you qualify for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, then it may be possible to delete the lien record by filing a motion with a Rhode Island court and claim a homestead exemption on the property.

To delete the lien record, you must convince the court that the:

  • Home or property is your primary residence (homestead)
  • Lien impairs your homestead exemption i.e. if sold, it will lead to the loss of all or some of the $500,000 equity allowed under Rhode Island homestead exemption for individuals filing for bankruptcy
  • Judgment lien is not from a mortgage foreclosure or related to child or spousal support

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