Criminal Records

What to Know About Expunging & Sealing Criminal Records

There is nothing more inconvenient and disruptive than having a stain on your record due to a past crime. Because of this, it will surely impact you for a lifetime by hindering your chances of having a job, buying a house, obtaining financial aid, or even traveling out of the country. The good news is that there are legal ways to conceal or get rid of this record. This is where sealing and expunging come into the picture.

In this article, we’ll share with you what expungement and sealing of criminal records entail in the state of Massachusetts. Read on to find out as well what grounds to consider and how to proceed with getting your record expunged or sealed.

Expungement versus sealing of criminal record in Massachusetts

Let’s first take a look at the difference between expungement and sealing:

  • Expungement: As the name suggests, it takes your criminal case off the record completely. In section 100E of General Laws, it is defined as “the permanent erasure or destruction of a record.” This means that it is “no longer accessible to, or maintained by, the court, any criminal justice agencies, or any other state agency, municipal agency or county agency.”
  • Sealing: While expungement destroys your record, sealing merely limits access to the record of your criminal case. This means that once it is sealed, it is no longer accessible for view by third parties, whether for an employment application, a home purchase, or even a loan application. This conceals the fact that you were ever arrested for a particular criminal charge.

Grounds for expungement

Now, let’s consider the grounds that can allow an expungement. The state of Massachusetts allows expunging your criminal record on the following conditions:

  • An offense having occurred before the 21st birthday
  • A period of seven years has passed for a felony or three years for a misdemeanor.
  • No other court appearances on your record
  • A clarification must be given that you are not the subject of a criminal investigation

Cases which cannot be sealed in Massachusetts 

Keep in mind that not every case can be sealed. For this reason, you must consult with a criminal attorney in Boston if you wish to have a particular case sealed. Below are some cases that cannot be strictly sealed due to the nature of the offense:

  • Sex offenses
  • Several firearm offenses
  • Crimes against the public
  • State ethics violation

Two ways to seal your criminal record in Massachusetts

If you’re looking to seal your criminal record, here are two ways to do so:

  • By mail: You have to mail a form to the Commissioner of Probation after a waiting period of three years for a misdemeanor and seven years for a felony.
  • Via the court: Only a judge has the legal authority to seal cases dismissed or ended in a “not guilty” finding, particularly with no waiting period required.


At this point, you know what expunging and sealing of criminal records entail in the state of Massachusetts. To that end, be sure to consider all the valuable information discussed above. If you’re looking to have your record either expunged or sealed completely, it’s always best to consult with a lawyer for their legal advice.

Work with the best criminal lawyer in MA! We’re a criminal law firm in Boston specializing in personal injury, criminal defense, and medical malpractice. Get in touch with us today for a free consultation!