Have you been arrested and now have a criminal record? Being arrested for a crime can be one of the most traumatic events someone may face in their life. In the blink of an eye, everything could change. An arrest is extremely frightening regardless of if it’s your first encounter with the criminal justice system or if you have a long record. Dealing with an arrest and its subsequent effects can be expensive, stressful and time consuming. Unfortunately, that record may follow you around and come back to bite you for many years to come. But it doesn’t necessarily have to control or ruin your chances for living the life you want. You may have options.
Do you have a prior criminal record or conviction? Is it preventing you from getting a job, housing, a gun permit, insurance or interfering with your immigration process? The harsh reality is there are many disadvantages of having a criminal record. A past conviction can negatively affect many areas of your life. A criminal record may impact your ability to get a loan, certain licenses, insurance, federal assistance, and it may prevent you from owning a firearm, adopting a child, and even volunteering.
But, having a criminal record does not have to completely destroy your life. Our experienced criminal defense attorneys can help you move forward. At Schulze Law, we have successfully represented clients in having their records sealed, giving them the freedom to move on in their lives.
If someone wants a fresh start from a regrettable criminal past, occasionally it is possible to make the charges disappear, at least as far as public record is concerned. This is done through the process of expungement or sealing of official documents. Under Massachusetts Law both procedures are permitted. But expungement is only allowed in very rare circumstances; therefore sealing is more common. Sealing a record is often considered as effective as expunging.
What is Expungement?
Massachusetts state law typically does not allow a person to have a criminal conviction expunged. If a conviction has been expunged, it is effectively erased. It is as if the person never committed the crime to begin with. Massachusetts does provide for expungement only in certain felony cases that resulted in an error or fraud. For example:
- When a criminal defendant is charged and convicted under the “wrong identity,” the innocent person’s name can be expunged from the record
- An abuse prevention order that was fraudulently acquired
- A delinquency case that was dismissed because of insufficient evidence can be expunged from police records
What does it mean to get a criminal record sealed?
Although in many ways as effective as expungement, a sealed record is a bit different. A record that has been sealed still contains the conviction but it is no longer accessible or viewable by the general public. Sealed records can’t be obtained except in very few situations. Sealing your criminal record does not completely get rid of it, but fewer people are able to see it. After the records are sealed, most employers, landlords and others will not be able to see the records when they do a CORI check. (Massachusetts state courts keep records of what happens in every criminal case. These records are called CORI – Criminal Offender Record Information). When you apply for a job after your records are sealed, you can say “I have no record.”
Expungement vs. Having Your Records Sealed
To sum it up, having your criminal records sealed is similar to having them expunged, but much less “hidden.” According to Justia.com , the key difference between expunging a person’s criminal record and sealing it is that a sealed record still “exists” in both a legal and physical sense, while expungement results in the deletion of any record that an arrest or criminal charge ever occurred. If your records are sealed, then it means they are not available to the public; this would include private investigators, credits, and employers. However, these records still exist in the context of the criminal justice system. For example, the sealed convictions will still be considered prior offenses if you are arrested in the future. It is typically standard procedure to seal records of juvenile criminal proceedings once the person turns 18, along with other criminal cases involving a juvenile, but those records are still accessible with a court order. The process for getting a criminal record expunged in Massachusetts is complex and rarely happens so sealing is a bit more common.
Can I get my record sealed?
Most Massachusetts criminal records can be sealed in one or two ways.
According to Mass.gov, to seal your criminal record, you should file a petition to seal your record. If you’re filing with the Boston Municipal Court Department (BMCD), you can file 3 or more dismissals and non-criminal court records from 2 or more court divisions within the BMCD at once.
- For criminal conviction records— Fill out the Petition to Seal Conviction Records form.
- For cases without convictions— Fill out the Petition to Seal Non-Conviction Records form. You can also include any documents you believe support your reason for sealing the record in your case. Factors the court may consider when deciding whether or not to seal your record include:
- The particular disadvantage(s) caused by the availability of the criminal record
- Evidence of rehabilitation suggesting you could overcome these disadvantages if the record were sealed
- Any other evidence that sealing would help you overcome the identified disadvantage(s)
- Relevant circumstances to you at the time of the offense that suggest a likelihood of recidivism or success
- The amount of time passed since the offense and the conclusion of the criminal case
- The nature of and reasons for the particular disposition of the criminal case
It’s also recommended but not required that you file:
- A copy of your criminal record.
- Adult record — See how to get a copy of your own criminal record.
- Juvenile record — Fill out the Personal Massachusetts Juvenile Court Activity Record Information Request Form and send it to the Massachusetts Probation Service (MPS).
- A certified copy of the court docket of your offenses. You can get a copy of the court docket from the Criminal Clerk’s Office where the case originated.
Who Is Eligible for Sealing?
According to masslegalhelp.org, Massachusetts has different waiting periods for sealing. It’s dependant on the outcome of the case. Dismissals, acquittals and first-time drug possession convictions can be sealed immediately. Dismissals after probation can be sealed after the probation is finished. Misdemeanor convictions have five-year waiting periods for sealing, felons must wait 10 years, and those convicted as juveniles must wait three years. The time will restart if subsequent convictions occur. Certain crimes, including firearms offenses and any conviction requiring registration as a sex offender, never can be sealed.
- Misdemeanor offenses: If you were convicted of a misdemeanor offense (first OUI, petty theft, or simple assault), you will be eligible to have the record sealed as soon as five years have gone by. This waiting period starts when your case has ended, including any time behind bars. In order to qualify, your record must stay clean after the offense that is in question.
- Felony offenses: If you were convicted of a felony offense, 10 years must pass before you are eligible for sealing. This includes any period of jail time, and you can’t be convicted of another crime during that time period.
- If your case was dismissed, you are eligible to seal your record immediately following the dismissal. Maybe even sooner. This is not the case with a guilty finding, but only if your case was dismissed or you were found not guilty.
- Sex crimes: If you have been convicted of a sex crime, you must wait 15 years to petition for a sealing of this charge. If you have been classified as a level 2 or 3 offender, your record can never be sealed.
- Crimes that are no longer considered “crimes”: If you were convicted of a crime that has since been decriminalized, such as marijuana possession, your record can be sealed immediately.
Who Can See My Massachusetts Criminal Case or Criminal Record if it is Sealed?
Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 6, section 172 describes how comprehensive the sealing of your Massachusetts criminal record is. Once your Massachusetts criminal record is sealed, only law enforcement will continue to have access to your sealed record. In very limited cases, the state, or a town or city, can have access to your sealed record if you apply for a license to carry a firearm. Also, if you are in family court on a child custody or domestic abuse case after your Massachusetts criminal record has been sealed, the family court judge can sometimes view your sealed record “in camera,” which means that only the judge sees the record. This means no potential job employer or landlord will have access. Which leads us to…
Do I Have to Tell Employers or Other Institutions About My Sealed Massachusetts Criminal Record?
No. The Massachusetts record-sealing statute permits you to truthfully answer “no record ” if you have had a Massachusetts criminal case sealed. If a potential employer, educational or housing institution asks the Massachusetts Department of Criminal Justice Information Services (DCJIS) or the Department of Probation if you have a criminal record, those agencies must also answer that you have no record
Massachusetts has some of the strictest sealing statutes in the United States when it comes to sealing the criminal record of a person convicted for a crime. If you or someone you know needs assistance in finding out if their criminal record can be sealed or expunged, we are here to help you.
Contact us by calling 857-300-5300 or visiting our website https://schulzelaw.com/contact-us/
With decades of experience and countless cases behind us, we cover many areas of criminal law. These types of criminal cases are serious and could result in: prison, probation, criminal records, unnecessary penalties & fines, or even worse. No one should have to fight criminal charges alone. With Schulze Law on your side, you won’t have to. We understand the importance of having your record sealed and will guide you through the process.
We cannot stress enough the importance of obtaining a strong criminal defense team. The attorneys and staff of Schulze Law are the skilled, aggressive attorneys you need to make a positive difference in your life if you have been charged with a crime and would like to get the charges sealed.