PROVIDENCE – Governor Gina Raimondo signed two bills into law late last week: one that effectively bans the use, sale and possession of non-liquid alcohol and one that requires police to destroy the arrest records of those who have been arrested wrongfully or mistakenly.

Non-liquid alcohol

The non-liquid alcohol ban, sponsored by Sen. Elizabeth A. Crowley (D-Dist. 16, Central Falls, Pawtucket) and Rep. David A. Bennett (D-Dist. 20, Warwick, Cranston), makes the possession of non-liquid alcohol (usually found in powder or vapor form) a crime punishable by a fine or even imprisonment.

“Alcohol is a drug and like other drugs, new and dangerous forms of delivery are emerging,” said Senator Crowley. “Whether it’s in a powdered or vapor form, the potential for abuse, especially with children, is an ever present danger. This legislation will keep people safe from these new delivery systems where the potential to overdose is too great due to the public’s unfamiliarity with the product.”

The bills are a response to a dangerous new trend in which alcohol vapors are inhaled by pouring over dry ice and inhaling the fumes or “free-basing” with an open flame. These methods bypass the body’s normal processing functions through the liver and digestive system and the vapors directly enter the blood stream and the brain instead.

The ban does not apply to organizations conducting bona fide research.

Fitting the description

Rep. Carlos E. Tobon and Sen. Juan M. Pichardo's bill requiring police to destroy the arrest records of those who were wrongfully arrested is a direct result of the “Fitting the Description” movement, which aims to bring to attention the number of individuals who are accidentally or wrongfully arrested. The legislation requires the sealing and destruction of all arrest records and indices of arrest for those persons who are wrongfully arrested or detained by any law enforcement agency. It also provides that the arrest not be disclosed for any purpose and mandates that the arresting agency notify the person who was arrested of the determination that the arrest was wrongful and case of mistaken identity.

“This is common-sense legislation that has sadly been ignored for far too long, adversely affecting too many people and creating more unneeded division between law enforcement and the public,” said Representative Tobon (D-Dist. 58, Pawtucket). “Upstanding citizens should not have arrest records that follow them throughout their lives because they unfairly ‘fit the description’ of a criminal. Rhode Island needed this change in law before more innocent people are subjected to the stigma of having unwarranted arrest records, possibly hampering their employment or living situations.”

The law requires destruction of all records, including fingerprints, photographs and physical measurements. Those who were wrongfully arrested will be legally allowed to deny, for any purpose - including a concealed weapon permit application or firearm purchase - that the arrest occurred.

Raimondo signed both bills into law on Friday. Both go into effect immediately.

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