STATE HOUSE – The Senate today gave its approval to
legislation sponsored by Sen. Harold M. Metts to allow people to petition to
expunge their criminal records for crimes that were subsequently
The legislation, which now goes to the House, 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
Since the state has decriminalized possession of small
amounts of marijuana, his bill would mean many Rhode Islanders would not be
haunted needlessly by records for a decriminalized act.
“As a state, we have slowly been moving toward recognizing
the unintended consequences of many of our criminal laws, particularly those
involving illicit drugs. One of those effects has been poverty, lack of
financial security and marginalization for the families of those people who
have criminal records. 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 bill (2018-S 2447), a person with a record for a crime
that has been decriminalized could 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.
The bill is cosponsored by Sen. Paul V. Jabour (D-Dist. 5,
Providence), Sen. Ana B. Quezada (D-Dist. 2, Providence), Sen. Elizabeth A.
Crowley (D-Dist. 16, Central Falls, Pawtucket) and Sen. Frank S. Lombardi
(D-Dist. 26, Cranston).