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May 15, 2008
Update: House OKs criminal case expungement bill
PROVIDENCE -- The House late today approved a bill to "quash and destroy'' the records of criminal cases in which a criminal was given a "deferred sentence'' in exchange for sparing the state a trial by pleading no contest or guilty to a crime.
Th House voted 46 to 17 to support the measure, with no debate. Click here for the roll call on the vote. The bill now goes to the Senate.
Unlike the state's current expungement law, the bill the House took up today is not limited to non-violent offenses by first-time offenders. In fact, the Rhode Island Supreme Court decision last November that sparked this latest drive to erase criminal records concerned a man who had pleaded no contest to second-degree robbery and a woman who had pleaded no contest to a drug charge. Both were given deferred sentences.
A Superior Court judge -- and then the Supreme Court -- concluded that neither was eligible under the current expungement law: The man because he had commited a violent crime, and the woman because she got into further trouble, which meant she was no longer a first-time offender.
The bill would open the door for the immediate destruction of such records after the deferral period -- which usually runs five years -- has ended, regardless of the nature of the crime and the history of the offender.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Joseph Almeida, D-Providence, is the latest in a series promoted by prisoner-rights advocates, the criminal defense bar and the public defenders office this year to reach the House floor. More may be coming, including one giving judges the discretion to erase multiple misdemeanors from someone's record.
In 2003, The Journal reported Almeida was found guilty of shoving a man who was trying to repossess his girlfriend's car from her driveway in Federal Hill. He was sentenced to one year of probation, 25 hours of community service and ordered to have no contact with the man or his brother.
-- With reports from Katherine Gregg of the Journal State House Bureau
Posted by Mike McKinney at 5:37 PM | Permalink
Animal Farm? | May 15, 2008 6:38 PM link
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