Sealing your criminal record can have great impact on your ability to obtain employment, housing, and other opportunities. Fortunately, in 2012, Massachusetts changed its Criminal Record Offender Information (“CORI”) law for the benefit of people with criminal histories and for those seeking to seal their criminal records and put past crimes behind them.
Many people do not know that simple arrests, even when there was no conviction, create a criminal record. The same is true for cases that are nolle prossed (not prosecuted), that end in not guilty verdicts after trial, or that are dismissed after a term of probation following a pre-trial diversion program or a continuance without a finding (“CWOF”). However, access to information regarding non-convictions like those listed above is restricted to certain types of agencies and employers, like the police and schools. The majority of employers cannot see dismissed cases through the CORI system. If you have questions about your criminal record and what employers may have access to, please call us and we can advise you on whether or not you should try to seal your record.
Most criminal convictions can be sealed. If you have been convicted of a crime, you may seal your criminal record by submitting a petition to the Commissioner of Probation, pursuant to Mass. G. L. c. 276, § 100A. You are eligible to have your record sealed five years after a misdemeanor conviction or the end of the sentence served for that conviction, ten years after a felony conviction or the end of the sentence served for that conviction, or fifteen years after a sex offense or the end of the sentence served for that conviction. You can view the form that must be sent to the Commissioner of Probation here. We have advised clients on whether or not their criminal offenses qualify for this form of relief and have assisted them in filling out the form correctly and submitting it to the appropriate person and have successfully sealed their records for misdemeanor and felony charges.
If you have not been convicted of a crime (i.e. your case ended with a finding of not guilty, a dismissal, a finding of no probable cause, or a nolle prosequi), there is no waiting period, but you must file a motion to seal the records. The district court motion form can be found here. If your case is in the Boston Municipal Court, you may file a single petition to seal up to three different records in a single petition. BMC Standing Order 1-09. In your petition to seal your records, you must convince a judge that the public’s interest in having your criminal record remain public is outweighed by the substantial and specific harm to you if it is not sealed. Because the courts have determined that the public has an important and substantial interest in knowing about criminal records, you must show that you will suffer specific harms, not just state in general terms that having a criminal record is damaging to you. We work with you, your school, your employer, your family, and any other appropriate persons to develop the information necessary so that the court knows that you are facing very real and specific consequences as a result of your criminal record. We are able to argue this persuasively in legal briefs, but also at the court appearance, where the judge will want to know about you, what you have done since the criminal charges, what your plans are for the future, and in what ways having a criminal record hinders those plans. The judge is not required to grant your petition to seal; the law says that it is in his or her discretion whether to allow it or not. That is why it is important for you to have a passionate and committed advocate who will be willing and able to get the information crucial to getting your petition allowed and your charges sealed.
Please call us if you would like to find out more about sealing your criminal record at (617) 742-6020.