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Sealing Criminal Records
Persons with criminal records can face a number of obstacles in their daily lives, even if the criminal offenses happened several years ago. With very few exceptions, Massachusetts law does not allow a person to expunge (destroy or erase) his or her criminal record. However, a Massachusetts statute does provide a process for sealing criminal records to prevent the public and certain other persons or agencies from knowing you have a criminal history.What Information is Part of My Criminal Record?
A person’s criminal record includes information concerning not just criminal convictions, but also concerning each and every arraignment, dismissal of charges, nolle prosequi, and “not guilty” finding. If criminal charges were brought against you, whether for a misdemeanor or a felony, then that matter will appear on your criminal record.
Some types of criminal proceedings will not appear on your criminal record. The issuance of a restraining order against you, or any reports of child abuse or neglect will be excluded. Juvenile records will not appear on your criminal record, unless you were tried as an adult. Finally, only Massachusetts state cases will appear on your Massachusetts criminal record.How Will Having a Criminal Record Affect Me?
There are several ways in which having a criminal record can affect your life. Most employers, schools, landlords, and housing authorities will have access to your Criminal Offender Record Information (“CORI”) and use it in making decisions about hiring or admitting you. Having a criminal record can also affect your chances of adopting a child, becoming a foster parent, volunteering in their children’s organized activities, or obtaining a firearms permit.Can I Seal My Criminal Record?
Under Massachusetts Gen. Laws c. 276, section 100A, a person can have his or her criminal record sealed under three circumstances:
- After a particular waiting period (five years for a misdemeanor, ten years for a felony, and fifteen years for a sex offense), convictions or admissions to some crimes may be sealed;
- Dismissals without probation and “not guilty” findings may be sealed immediately for good cause shown; and
- Any recorded offense that is no longer a crime under Massachusetts law may be sealed.
However, some types of convictions cannot be sealed. Some firearms offenses (i.e., sale of firearms or ammunition without a license), crimes against the public (i.e., witness intimidation, perjury, resisting arrest), and violations of the State Ethics Act will not be sealed. You may not seal any part of your record if you are presently registered as a sex offender. Additionally, any past or present Level 2 or Level 3 sex offender can never seal certain sex offenses.What Happens If My Record is Sealed?
If your criminal record is successfully sealed, the sealed records will not longer show up on CORI reports. In fact, the CORI report will not even show that a record ever existed and has since been sealed. If your entire criminal record is sealed, you have the right to tell employers and others that you do not have a criminal record, and that you were never arrested for, charged with, or convicted of a criminal offense. However, police, probation, courts, and other governmental agencies will still have access to your full record, and other states or federal jurisdictions may require you to disclose even your sealed offenses. For these reasons, it is important to retain your own records of offenses, even once they are sealed under the Massachusetts sealing statute.What Can I Do to Have My Criminal Record Sealed?
An experienced criminal defense lawyer can assist you in obtaining a copy of your criminal record, ensuring its accuracy, obtaining certified copies of court documents, and petitioning to seal your record. Attorney Stephen Neyman has successfully represented several clients who have hoped to seal their records and move on with their lives. Attorney Neyman can help you understand this process and the consequences of sealing – or of not sealing – your criminal record. For a free consultation, contact the Law Offices of Stephen Neyman at 617-263-6800 or online today.