When you’re charged with a crime, a lot of worries and fears go through your mind. This can even be a traumatic experience—one study found 60% of people experienced PTSD symptoms after being arrested.
Amidst all of this, most people don’t immediately consider the huge potential impact of having a criminal record.
John E. MacDonald is an RI criminal defense attorney with over 25 years of experience successfully defending and supporting clients in both state and federal court. He’s also deeply familiar with post-conviction relief, including expungement and sealing of criminal records.
That’s why we put together this comprehensive guide to Rhode Island criminal records. You likely have a lot of questions, but don’t worry. We have all the answers.
Don’t see your question below? Contact the Law Office of John E. MacDonald at 401.421.1440 right now to schedule your free consultation.
What are Criminal Records?
Criminal records are official records of people’s past convictions. While government organizations have records of individual crimes and cases, they also maintain a criminal record for each individual person.
When a potential employer or landlord does a background check on you, it typically includes your criminal record. If you’re ever charged with an offense in the future, the prosecutor will be aware of your criminal record.
Basically, a criminal record contains details on your past and pending convictions. When you try to do things like sign a new lease or get a new job, your criminal record can negatively impact your chances of success.
You should also know that these records are available to the general public. People in RI can access court records through the Rhode Island Judiciary Public Portal.
How Can I Obtain a Copy of My Criminal Record in Rhode Island?
To obtain an official copy of your criminal record in Rhode Island, you must go to the Bureau of Criminal Identification (BCI), located in the Attorney General Julius C. Michaelson Customer Service Center at 4 Howard Avenue, Cranston, RI 02920. You’ll need to present valid state or federal photo ID and pay a $5.00 fee via credit/debit card.
You can also obtain a copy via mail by gathering the following documents:
- A signed and notarized Release of Information form
- A copy of your valid state or federal photo ID
- A check or money order for $5.00 made payable to “BCI”
- A stamped, self-addressed return envelope
Mail the above to:
Rhode Island Office of the Attorney General
4 Howard Ave
Cranston RI 02920
If you choose to request a copy via mail, expect to wait around seven business days before you receive it.
Expungement and Sealing of Rhode Island Criminal Records
In Rhode Island, sealing and expunging criminal records are functionally identical. Per R.I. Gen. Laws § 12-1.3-2, there are three clearly defined paths to expungement:
1. First offenders with only one felony or misdemeanor conviction are eligible.
2. Repeat offenders with two to six misdemeanor convictions are eligible.
3. Offenders who have successfully completed every element of a deferred sentence are eligible.
The law also includes language for a few less common scenarios, such as expunging records related to decriminalized offenses, or expunging after completion of alternative deferred dispositions.
To expunge Rhode Island criminal records, you must also complete a waiting period. You need five arrest-free years for misdemeanors, and 10 arrest-free years for felonies if you’re a first offender. Repeat offenders with two to six misdemeanors need 10 arrest-free years.
But there are quite a few other details at play here, too. Certain DUI and violent convictions aren’t ever eligible for expungement. If you’re interested in getting your criminal record expunged, contact RI criminal defense attorney John E. MacDonald now at 401.421.1440 to discuss your options.
Expunging Juvenile Criminal Records in Rhode Island
In Rhode Island, juvenile criminal records are automatically sealed upon sentence completion—with a few exceptions.
If a minor commits a very serious crime, a waiver may be filed for them to be tried as an adult. Expunging criminal records in this scenario would require you to meet the criteria listed in the above section.
Potential Consequences of Having a Criminal Record
You wouldn’t be alone in thinking that once your sentence is complete, you can move on with your life as if nothing happened. But the truth is, your conviction can weigh you down for years to come.
To some extent, the nature of these impacts depends on your specific offense and sentence. Below are examples of the most common consequences you might face with a criminal record in Rhode Island.
You may be at risk of losing certain professional licenses if you have a criminal record in Rhode Island. Nurses, for example, are governed by a state board. The board is responsible for both enforcing rules and vetting nurses.
Part of that responsibility is barring people who, based on past convictions, might pose a risk to public health.
That said, it’s also true that the Rhode Island General Assembly passed the Fair Chance Licensing Act in 2020. While a criminal record will no longer outright bar you from many professional licenses, it’s still up to each individual agency to decide whether you’re eligible.
In most situations, a potential employer will have the legal right to perform a background check. Part of the information they’ll receive relates to your criminal record.
Depending on the nature of your crime, an employer may offer you a lower wage or even choose not to hire you. Plus, a conviction can bar you from jobs involving driving, working with children, or a number of other job duties.
Many of your civil rights are at risk once you have a Rhode Island criminal record. First, you’re completely disqualified from holding public office until it’s been three years since the completion of your sentence.
Your right to own firearms may be revoked, too. If you’re convicted of a “crime of violence” in Rhode Island, you’re prohibited from carrying or possessing a firearm.
Lastly, while your right to drive isn’t what you might call a “civil right,” losing your driver’s license can cause dramatic changes to your daily life.
Just like employers, many landlords conduct background checks on potential tenants. Furthermore, rental companies often have firm policies that prevent them from renting to people convicted of specific crimes.
Buying property instead of renting isn’t a perfect solution either. Again, depending on the nature of your conviction, you may not be able to buy a home near certain people, businesses, or services.
Child Custody and Adoption
This is especially true if your charges involve domestic violence or other violent crimes. You see, our legal system is very much geared towards protecting children and giving them the best quality of life.
So, if the state believes that due to your criminal record, living with you isn’t in the best interest of the child, you won’t be eligible to have custody.
And when it comes to adoption or fostering in Rhode Island, a background check is part of the process. Certain convictions will automatically disqualify you.
Where Can I Find Legal Assistance in Rhode Island for Dealing with Criminal Records?
If you need legal assistance in Rhode Island for dealing with criminal records, contact the Law Office of John E. MacDonald now at 401.421.1440. As part of your free consultation, we’ll discuss options such as applying for a sentence modification or pursuing expungement.
It’s always in your best interest to work with an experienced, knowledgeable RI criminal defense attorney. But this is particularly true when you’re dealing with Rhode Island criminal records. There are many different paths forward, and the ideal choice depends entirely on the nature of your conviction(s) and when they happened.
You need clear, understandable information, a breakdown of your options for dealing with your criminal record, and advice on how to win the best possible outcome. That’s exactly what you’ll get when you work with the Law Office of John E. MacDonald.Contact us now or call (401) 421.1440 to start working towards the fresh start you deserve.