Expungement and sealing of criminal records are legal processes that enable individuals to clear their criminal records. These processes can be complex, time-consuming, and only certain types of criminal offenses are eligible for expungement or sealing in Massachusetts. However, the benefits of expungement and sealing cannot be overstated as they include improved job prospects, housing opportunities, and the ability to move on from past mistakes. In this post, we will explore the intricacies of expungement and sealing in Massachusetts so that you can understand your options if you have a criminal record.
Understanding the Basics of Criminal Records in Massachusetts Massachusetts Criminal Record: Understanding the Basics
A Massachusetts criminal record is documentation of an individual’s criminal history within the state. It includes all arrests, charges, and convictions that have been made against the person. This record is maintained by various law enforcement agencies in the state, including local police departments and the Massachusetts State Police.
If a person has been arrested for a crime in Massachusetts, they will have a criminal case filed against them. A criminal case is a legal proceeding in which a person is accused of committing a crime within the state. The case will be heard in either district court or superior court depending on the severity of the offense.
The Boston Municipal Court is one of several courts that handle criminal cases within the city of Boston. This court has jurisdiction over misdemeanor offenses such as assault and battery, drug possession, and larceny.
In addition to being used by law enforcement agencies for investigative purposes, Massachusetts records are also available to employers, landlords, and other organizations that may need to conduct background checks on individuals. This means that having a criminal record can have serious consequences for an individual’s future prospects.
Expungement and Sealing of Criminal Records
Massachusetts General Laws provide guidelines for the expungement and sealing of criminal records in the state. Expungement refers to completely erasing an individual’s record from public view while sealing refers to restricting access to certain portions of it.
Expungement is only available under very limited circumstances in Massachusetts. In most cases, if an individual has been convicted of a crime or has admitted guilt as part of a plea agreement, their record cannot be expunged.
Sealing records is more common than expungement but still requires meeting specific criteria outlined by state law. For instance, some misdemeanors can be sealed after five years while others require ten years before they can be sealed.
It’s important to note that even if an individual’s record has been sealed, certain organizations such as law enforcement agencies and courts can still access it. However, most employers and landlords will not be able to see the sealed information.
Why Expungement and Sealing Matter
Having a criminal record can have numerous negative impacts on an individual’s life. It can make it difficult to find employment, housing, or even obtain credit. Additionally, having a record can lead to social stigmatization and discrimination.
Expungement and sealing of records provide individuals with a second chance at life by allowing them to move forward without the burden of their past mistakes. This is especially important for those who were wrongfully accused or convicted of crimes they did not commit.
In addition to providing individuals with a fresh start, expungement and sealing also benefit society as a whole. By removing barriers that prevent individuals from obtaining employment or housing, we are helping to reduce recidivism rates and promote public safety.
Requirements for Expunging a Massachusetts Criminal CaseTime-Based Expungement Requirements in Massachusetts
If you have a criminal record in Massachusetts, you may be wondering if it is possible to expunge your case from your record. Time-based expungement is available for certain cases in Massachusetts, but it requires meeting specific legal requirements. In this section, we will discuss the requirements for expunging a Massachusetts criminal case.
Legal Requirements for Time-Based Expungement
The waiting period for time-based expungement varies depending on the type of case and can range from 3 to 10 years. To be eligible for expungement, the case must have been dismissed or resulted in a not guilty verdict. The defendant cannot have any other pending criminal charges or convictions.
For example, if you were charged with possession of marijuana and the case was dismissed three years ago, you may be eligible for time-based expungement. However, if you were convicted of assault last year and are currently facing charges for theft, you would not be eligible.
It is important to note that even if you meet all of the legal requirements for time-based expungement, there is no guarantee that your petition will be granted. The decision to grant or deny an expungement request is up to the discretion of the court.
Consult with an Experienced Attorney
Navigating the legal system can be complex and confusing. It is important to consult with an experienced Boston Criminal Attorney to determine if your case meets the requirements for expungement in Massachusetts.
An attorney can help guide you through the process and ensure that all necessary paperwork is filed correctly and on time. They can also represent you in court and argue on your behalf why your petition should be granted.
Examples of Successful Expungements
While each case is unique, there have been successful petitions for time-based expungements in Massachusetts.
One example involves a man who was charged with drug possession when he was 18 years old. The case was dismissed, but the charge remained on his record for years. When he applied for a job as a teacher, the charge prevented him from being hired.
He consulted with an attorney who helped him file a petition for time-based expungement. The court granted his petition, and the charge was removed from his record. He was able to secure a teaching job shortly after.
Another example involves a woman who was charged with shoplifting when she was 22 years old. The case resulted in a not guilty verdict, but the charge remained on her record for years. When she applied for an apartment, the charge prevented her from being approved.
She consulted with an attorney who helped her file a petition for time-based expungement. The court granted her petition, and the charge was removed from her record. She was able to secure an apartment shortly after.
Statistics on Expungements
According to data from the Massachusetts Sentencing Commission, there were 1,115 petitions filed for expungement between 2012 and 2019. Of those petitions, 55% were granted by the court.
The majority of petitions filed were for drug offenses (34%), followed by larceny (14%) and assault (11%). The average waiting period before filing a petition was 5 years.
Other Serious Errors That Can Lead to Expungement
Erroneous felony convictions can be expunged based on the fact that the conviction was a result of an error in the criminal case. This means that if there was a mistake made in the trial, such as evidence being presented incorrectly or a witness giving false testimony, then the conviction may be overturned and expunged from your record. It’s important to note that not all errors will lead to expungement, but it is worth exploring this option if you believe there was an error in your case.
Misdemeanor convictions can also be expunged if there was an error in the criminal case that led to the conviction. For example, if you were convicted of a misdemeanor because of mistaken identity or because of incorrect information provided by law enforcement, then you may be able to have your record expunged. Similarly, if there was an issue with how evidence was collected or presented during your trial, this could also lead to an opportunity for expungement.
Sex offenses are some of the most serious crimes one can commit and are often considered unforgivable by society. However, even sex offenses can be expunged under certain circumstances. If there was an issue with how evidence was collected or presented during your trial or final hearing for a sex offense charge, then you may have grounds for expungement. It’s important to note that these cases are often more complex than other types of criminal cases and require expert legal advice.
Fraud is another serious crime that can lead to charges and convictions. If you were convicted of fraud due to faulty documents or other issues with evidence presented during your case, then you may be able to have your record expunged. This is especially true if new evidence comes to light after your conviction that shows you were not guilty of committing fraud.
Other serious crimes can also be expunged if there was an issue with the documents or evidence presented during the criminal case or final hearing. For example, if you were convicted of a felony because of mistaken identity or because the evidence presented against you was faulty, then you may be able to have your record expunged. Similarly, if there was an issue with how evidence was collected or presented during your trial for a serious crime charge, this could also lead to an opportunity for expungement.
It’s important to note that not all errors will lead to expungement and that each case is unique. If you believe there was an error in your criminal case that led to your conviction, it’s important to speak with an experienced attorney who can help you explore your options for expungement.
Expunging a criminal record can be a lengthy and complex process. It often requires the assistance of an experienced attorney who can help guide you through the legal system and ensure that all necessary paperwork is filed correctly and on time. However, the benefits of having a clean criminal record are well worth the effort.
Having a criminal record can make it difficult to find employment, housing, or even obtain credit. It can also limit your ability to participate in certain activities such as volunteering or coaching youth sports teams. By having your record expunged, you can start fresh and move forward with your life without the burden of past mistakes holding you back.
Eligibility for Sealing Massachusetts Criminal Records
In Massachusetts, individuals who have been convicted of certain misdemeanors or felonies may be eligible to have their criminal records sealed. Sealing a criminal record means that the record is no longer publicly accessible and cannot be used against the individual in most circumstances.
Eligibility for sealing depends on several factors, including the type of offense, the length of time since the conviction or completion of sentence, and whether the individual has any other pending criminal charges or convictions.
Type of Offense
Under Massachusetts law, some offenses are not eligible for sealing. These include sex offenses, certain violent crimes such as murder and manslaughter, and offenses involving firearms. Additionally, individuals who have been convicted of more than one felony are generally not eligible to have their records sealed.
Length of Time Since Conviction or Completion of Sentence
The length of time since the conviction or completion of sentence is also an important factor in determining eligibility for sealing. For misdemeanor offenses, an individual must wait five years from the date of conviction or release from incarceration before they can apply to have their record sealed. For felony offenses, an individual must wait ten years.
Pending Criminal Charges or Convictions
Individuals with pending criminal charges or convictions are generally not eligible to have their records sealed. However, there are some exceptions to this rule. For example, if an individual has a pending charge that is related to drug addiction and they complete a court-approved treatment program before applying for sealing, they may still be eligible.
Process for Sealing Records
The process for sealing criminal records in Massachusetts involves filing a petition with the court where the case was heard. The petition must include information about the offense(s) being sealed and why sealing would benefit the petitioner.
If the court grants the petition, all official records related to the offense(s) will be impounded and made unavailable to most members of the public. However, certain government agencies and employers may still have access to sealed records in certain circumstances.
Benefits of Sealing Criminal Records
Sealing a criminal record can have many benefits for individuals who are trying to move on from past mistakes. With a sealed record, individuals may be able to:
- Pass background checks for employment, housing, and other purposes
- Apply for professional licenses and certifications that were previously off-limits due to their criminal history
- Avoid discrimination based on their criminal history
- Regain some of the privacy and dignity that may have been lost due to their past mistakes
In addition to these benefits, sealing a criminal record can also help reduce recidivism by making it easier for individuals with criminal histories to reintegrate into society and become productive members of their communities.
Automatic Sealing of Criminal Histories in Massachusetts
Criminal records can have a significant impact on an individual’s life, making it difficult to secure employment or housing. Fortunately, in Massachusetts, certain criminal records can be automatically sealed after a specified period of time has passed. This process is handled by the Massachusetts Department of Criminal Justice Information Services (DCJIS) and does not require any action from the individual whose record is being sealed.
Eligibility for Automatic Sealing
The eligibility for automatic sealing depends on the type of offense and the sentence served. Misdemeanors and certain felonies that resulted in a non-prison sentence are eligible for automatic sealing after ten years have passed since the date of disposition or release from custody. For juvenile offenses, the waiting period is three years after the date of disposition or release from custody.
However, there are certain offenses that are not eligible for automatic sealing. These include sex offenses and crimes that result in a prison sentence. In these cases, individuals must file a petition with the court to have their record sealed.
Objections by District Attorneys
Boston District attorneys have the ability to object to the sealing of a criminal record if they believe it would not be in the best interest of justice to do so. However, they must provide a valid reason for their objection.
For example, if an individual has multiple convictions for driving under the influence (DUI), a district attorney may object to their record being sealed if they believe it poses a risk to public safety. Similarly, if an individual has been convicted of embezzlement and is seeking employment at a financial institution, a district attorney may object to their record being sealed because it could potentially harm consumers.
According to data provided by DCJIS, over 10,000 criminal records were automatically sealed in Massachusetts between 2018-2019 alone. This indicates that many individuals are taking advantage of this opportunity to have their criminal records sealed and move on with their lives.
One example of the automatic sealing process is a case where an individual was convicted of a misdemeanor drug offense in Massachusetts. After ten years had passed since the date of disposition, their record was automatically sealed by DCJIS. This allowed them to apply for jobs without worrying about their criminal history being a barrier to employment.
Another example is a case where an individual was convicted of a non-violent felony offense and served time in jail. After completing their sentence and waiting ten years, their record was automatically sealed by DCJIS. This allowed them to pursue housing opportunities without fear of being denied due to their criminal history.
How to Request to Seal Your Massachusetts Criminal RecordDetermine Eligibility for Record Sealing
If you have a criminal record in Massachusetts and want to request to seal it, the first step is to determine your eligibility. The process of sealing a criminal record is not available for all types of crimes. In general, only certain non-violent misdemeanors and felonies are eligible for sealing.
To be eligible, you must have completed all the terms of your sentence, including probation or parole. Additionally, there must be no pending charges or outstanding warrants against you. If you were convicted of a sex offense or other serious crime, such as murder or manslaughter, your record cannot be sealed.
Obtain a Copy of Your Criminal Record
Before filing a petition to seal your criminal record in Massachusetts, you will need to obtain a copy of your criminal record from the Department of Criminal Justice Information Services (DCJIS). You can submit an online request through the DCJIS website or by mail using their paper form. There is a fee associated with obtaining your criminal record.
Once you receive your criminal record, review it carefully to ensure that all the information is accurate and up-to-date. If there are any errors on your record, contact the DCJIS immediately to request corrections.
Complete and File a Petition to Seal with the Court
After determining eligibility and obtaining a copy of your criminal record, the next step is to complete and file a petition to seal with the court where you were convicted. The petition should include information about yourself, including personal details such as name and address; details about the conviction(s), including dates and charges; and reasons why sealing your records would benefit you.
It’s important to note that filing fees may apply when submitting this petition. However, if you cannot afford these fees due to financial hardship, there may be an option for waiver.
Serve the Petition to All Relevant Parties
Once you have filed your petition with the court clerk’s office, you must serve the petition to all relevant parties, including the district attorney’s office and any law enforcement agencies involved in your case. This is typically done through certified mail or personal service.
Attend the Court Hearing, If Required
In some cases, a court hearing may be required to determine whether your criminal record can be sealed. If this is the case, you will receive notice of the hearing date and time from the court. It’s important to attend this hearing and bring any necessary documentation or evidence that supports your request for sealing.
Await the Court’s Decision and Follow Any Necessary Steps to Complete the Sealing Process
After attending a court hearing (if required), you will need to await the court’s decision regarding your petition to seal your criminal record. If approved, you will need to follow any necessary steps outlined by the court to complete the sealing process.
This may include notifying various agencies about the sealing of your records or obtaining certified copies of orders from the court. Once all necessary steps have been completed, your criminal record will be sealed from public view.
Benefits of Sealing Your Massachusetts Criminal Record: Employment, Education, and Housing Opportunities
Sealing your criminal record can have a significant impact on your future opportunities, particularly in the areas of employment, education, and housing. In Massachusetts, sealing your criminal record means that it will no longer be visible to most employers, landlords, and educational institutions. This can greatly increase your chances of success in these areas.
One of the main benefits of sealing your criminal record is that it can improve your chances of getting hired by employers. Many employers conduct background checks on job applicants, and having a criminal record can be a major barrier to employment. Even if you are qualified for a job and have relevant experience or education, a criminal record may disqualify you from consideration.
By sealing your criminal record, you can improve your chances of landing a job and moving forward with your career. Employers will not be able to see any sealed records during the hiring process. This means that they will not know about any past convictions or arrests that are not relevant to the position being applied for.
Sealing your criminal record can also help you pursue educational opportunities. Many schools and universities ask about criminal history on their applications, and having a criminal record can make it difficult to get accepted. By sealing your criminal record, you may be able to improve your chances of being admitted to the school of your choice.
Some schools may automatically deny admission based solely on an applicant’s criminal history. However, if you have sealed records due to expungement or other legal proceedings in Massachusetts courts or probation department then such records cannot be used against you during admissions processes.
Sealing your criminal record can also make it easier for you to find housing. Landlords often conduct background checks on prospective tenants, and having a criminal record can make it difficult to find a place to live. By sealing your criminal record, you may be able to improve your chances of finding a safe and affordable place to live.
In addition, some landlords may be hesitant to rent to individuals with criminal records due to concerns about potential criminal activity on their property. By sealing your criminal record, you can alleviate these concerns and increase your chances of finding a landlord who is willing to rent to you.
Sealing your criminal record can also have other benefits beyond employment, education, and housing opportunities. For example, it can help you regain custody or visitation rights if they were lost due to past convictions. It can also help restore your reputation in the community by removing the stigma associated with having a criminal record.
Additionally, sealing your criminal record can provide peace of mind knowing that past mistakes will not continue to haunt you in the future. You will no longer have to worry about being denied opportunities or judged based on past actions.
Free Legal Help with Your CORI: Finding Legal Aid in Massachusetts
Legal aid organizations in Massachusetts can be a valuable resource for individuals looking to understand their CORI and navigate the expungement or sealing process. However, it’s important to find a Boston Criminal Defense Lawyer who specializes in criminal law and has experience with CORI petitions to ensure the best possible outcome for your case.
Finding Legal Aid
When searching for legal aid, consider looking for organizations that offer pro bono services or sliding scale fees based on income. These types of organizations may be able to provide free or low-cost legal assistance to those who qualify. Additionally, some courts may have resources available to help individuals with their CORI, such as self-help centers or volunteer lawyers.
It’s also important to note that not all legal aid organizations are created equal. Some may specialize in certain areas of law or only work with clients who meet specific criteria. When researching potential options, make sure to read reviews and check their qualifications before making a decision.
Choosing the Right Lawyer
If you decide to hire a lawyer for your CORI petition, it’s crucial to find someone who is experienced in this area of law. Look for attorneys who have handled similar cases and have a track record of success.
You can also ask for referrals from friends or family members who have gone through the same process. Alternatively, you can search online directories or contact your local bar association for recommendations.
It’s also important to consider the cost when choosing a lawyer. While some attorneys may charge high hourly rates, others may offer flat fees or contingency-based pricing models. Make sure you understand how much you will be expected to pay before signing any contracts.
Understanding Your Rights
Before beginning the expungement or sealing process, it’s important to understand your rights under Massachusetts law. For example, certain offenses may not be eligible for expungement or sealing, depending on the severity of the crime and how long ago it occurred.
Additionally, if you received a CWOF (Continuance Without a Finding) for your offense, this may impact your ability to seal or expunge your record. In some cases, you may need to wait a certain amount of time before pursuing these options.
Working with the Court
If you decide to pursue expungement or sealing, you will need to file a petition with the court. This process can be complex and time-consuming, so it’s important to work closely with your Boston criminal lawyer and follow all necessary procedures.
During the hearing, the judge will review your case and determine whether or not to grant your petition. If approved, your CORI will be sealed or expunged from public view, which can have significant benefits when applying for jobs or housing.
The Importance of Expungement and Sealing of Criminal Records in Massachusetts
In conclusion, expungement and sealing of criminal records are crucial for individuals who have been convicted of crimes in Massachusetts. These legal processes offer a chance for people to move on from their past mistakes and build a better future for themselves.
Expunging a criminal case can be challenging, but it is not impossible. It requires meeting specific requirements, such as having no prior convictions or pending cases. However, even if you do not meet the criteria for expungement, you may still be eligible to seal your criminal record.
Sealing your criminal record can provide numerous benefits, including improved employment opportunities, access to housing options, and higher education possibilities. With a sealed record, potential employers or landlords will not see any past convictions that could negatively impact their decision-making process.
It is essential to note that some criminal histories automatically seal in Massachusetts after a certain period has passed. However, it is always best to consult with a legal professional to determine your eligibility for expungement or sealing.
If you need help navigating the complex legal system surrounding CORI records in Massachusetts, there are resources available to you. Free legal aid clinics can provide guidance on how to request an expungement or sealing of your record.