New law allows expungement of subsequently decriminalized crimes
STATE HOUSE – Legislation sponsored by Sen. Harold M. Metts and Rep. Scott Slater to allow people to petition to expunge their criminal records for crimes that were subsequently decriminalized has become law.
The legislation (2018-S 2447, 2018-H 8355), which was signed by Gov. Gina M. Raimondo this week, is aimed at leveling the playing field and helping people support themselves without being held back by a criminal record for an offense that is no longer considered a crime.
Since the state has decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana, the new law means many Rhode Islanders will not be haunted needlessly by records for a decriminalized act.
“As a state, we have slowly been moving toward recognizing that more than punishment, compassion, reconciliation and prevention will better serve not only the individual, but society as a whole. The effects of harsh punishment and criminal records for minor drug offenses in particular have been poverty, lack of financial security and marginalization. This problem very disproportionally affects people of color and those who were already poor. If an act has been decriminalized since a person was charged and paid their price for it, that person shouldn’t have to keep paying the price in the form of being denied jobs and other opportunities because of their criminal record,” said Senator Metts (D-Dist. 6, Providence).
“Once an act has been decriminalized and we’ve decided it doesn’t count as an offense against society, there is no point to leaving that albatross hanging around the necks of those who were previously convicted. Let them move on, and they can better support themselves and their families and contribute to our communities and our state,” he continued.
Under the new law, a person with a record for a crime that has been decriminalized may petition the court in which they were convicted for expungement. The court shall grant it without costs provided the individual has completed all conditions of his or her sentence and paid all resulting fines, fees and costs.
“We must address the punitive laws on our books that don’t contribute to reducing crime and instead hold people back from gaining employment, taking care of themselves and their families and contributing to society. We did that when we decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana, and allowing those who were already convicted of it to expunge that record is a way to correct the lingering negative effects,” said Representative Slater (D-Dist. 10, Providence).
For more information, contact:
Meredyth R. Whitty, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903