Expungement vs. Sealing: Understanding the Difference in Rhode Island

In Rhode Island, individuals with past criminal convictions may be able to seek either expungement or sealing of their records to mitigate the consequences of their past mistakes. While both processes aim to limit public access to these records, it is essential to comprehend the differences between expungement and sealing to make an informed decision.

Expungement: Erasing the Past

Expungement is a legal process allowing individuals to erase their criminal record from public view. In the eyes of the law, it is as if the criminal conviction never occurred. Expunged records are physically destroyed or returned to the petitioner, and all references to the arrest and conviction are removed from public records and databases.

Specific criteria must be met to be eligible for expungement in Rhode Island. Generally, an individual must have completed their sentence, including any probation or parole, and maintained a clean record for a specified period. The waiting period varies depending on the nature of the offense. Certain offenses, such as violent crimes or sex offenses, may not be eligible for expungement.

Sealing: Concealing from the Public

Sealing does not erase the criminal record but restricts access to it. Sealed records remain intact but are hidden from public view, including potential employers, landlords, and others conducting background checks. While law enforcement and some government agencies may still have access to sealed records, they are effectively shielded from public scrutiny.

In Rhode Island, sealing is typically available for less severe offenses and is often an option for individuals who do not meet the eligibility requirements for expungement. The waiting period for sealing is generally shorter than that of expungement, making it a viable option for those seeking a fresh start sooner.

Understanding the Benefits and Limitations

Expungement and sealing both offer significant advantages for individuals with criminal records. By erasing or concealing past convictions, individuals can experience increased employment opportunities and improved access to housing. Additionally, the ability to move forward without the stigma of a criminal record can positively impact mental and emotional well-being.

However, it is crucial to recognize that expungement and sealing have limitations. For instance, law enforcement may still have access to sealed records in certain cases. Moreover, expungement and sealing do not guarantee complete confidentiality, as certain agencies and employers may be granted access to sealed or expunged records under specific circumstances.

Seek Legal Counsel

Determining whether to pursue expungement or sealing is a complex decision that requires a thorough understanding of Rhode Island's laws and legal processes. At the Law Offices of Thomas H. O'Brien, our experienced attorneys can assess individual situations, explain the differences between expungement and sealing, and guide clients through the appropriate legal process.

Our team of dedicated professionals is committed to helping individuals with past criminal records navigate the complexities of expungement and sealing in Rhode Island. We understand the importance of a clean slate and work diligently to ensure our clients have the best chance to rebuild their lives and move forward.

Expungement and sealing offer valuable opportunities for individuals with criminal records to leave their past behind and embrace a brighter future. Whether you qualify for expungement or sealing depends on various factors, including the nature of your offense and criminal history. Our knowledgeable team is ready to assist you in understanding your options and guiding you through the legal process to help you secure a fresh start.

Contact the Law Offices of Thomas H. O'Brien today if you're ready to take control of your future and put your past behind you!