The Rhode Island 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 decriminalized.
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 crime.
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).
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