Do you need to expunge, petition or seal your criminal records? Attorney Nathan has successfully help others just like you! If you have a criminal conviction earlier in your life, it can create real problems for you when you try to get a job, get a loan or rent an apartment. Depending on the particulars in your case, you might be able to make a motion to seal your Massachusetts criminal record even if you did plead guilty to a crime or were convicted.
In Massachusetts, the Criminal Offender Record (CORI) reform went into effect in 2012. Because of this, if charges against you were dismissed, chances of getting it sealed have improved a good deal. It could be sealed if it was an outright dismissal, a dismissal after probation or a dismissal after the charged was first continued without a finding.
If you pled guilty or were found guilty on a charge, you may need to wait some years before you petition the Massachusetts court to seal the record. Current law under CORI states that you have to wait 15 years after the final disposition of a felony to have your record sealed.
Fortunately, the law does give the judge authority to seal a record ahead of that timeline. The judge will consider the hardship that you are experiencing, against the public policy of having an open record. An experienced attorney is essential here to convince a wavering judge that you are rehabilitated and should be entitled to a clean slate.
Attorney Nathan can advise you about the feasibility of filing a motion to seal your criminal record. While results will depend upon your exact case, do not assume anymore that a criminal record must follow you through life.
Records That May Be Sealed in Massachusetts
Some of the criminal charges that may be able to be sealed in some circumstances include:
- Drug possession
- Weapons charges
- Property crimes including arson, burglary and theft
- Complexities of Sealing a Record
Most regular people, and not a few attorneys, are unaware of the problems with a record that is not properly sealed. Before going ahead with a petition to seal a record, your attorney should investigate the status of your criminal record to make sure it is accurate. There will be certified copies of court documents that your lawyer will need to obtain.
Also, he or she will need to take several preliminary steps with government bureaucracies before proceeding with your case. If you speak to a lawyer who tells you he or she can quickly and easily seal your record, you may want to talk to another attorney. Making a motion to seal a record is a complex process and requires an experienced, detail-oriented lawyer.
What A Sealed Record Means
Once your criminal record has been sealed in Massachusetts, a search that is done by the Massachusetts Criminal History Systems Board show show that you do not have a criminal record. This means that when you apply for work, you can legally state on your application that you were never convicted of a criminal offense. Even more importantly, you can state that you have not been charged or arrested for a criminal offense. Even if you WERE arrested, once your record has been sealed, that arrest no longer legally exists. The sealing statute in Massachusetts authorizes you to answer in this way.
Most employers in the state use the Criminal History Systems Board to do background checks, so your record will be clean once again. Keep in mind that if you are seeking employment in a federal agency or some part of the federal government, there could be other background checks made on you that involve fingerprints. You should consult with your attorney if you are applying for federal employment, to assure that your sealed record also will apply at the federal level.
How to Seal Your Record
Records can be sealed either by mail or in court. Most criminal records may be sealed using mail after a waiting period. Also, some cases may be sealed by a judge in court without any waiting period.
All convictions, other than first time drug possession cases, only can be sealed by mail if there has been a waiting period of five years for a misdemeanor, or 10 years for a felony.
If your case was dismissed or ended with a not guilty determination, it can be sealed by US mail after the waiting period, or a judge can seal it without a waiting period.
Should You Seal Your Record?
It is important to remember that you have a criminal record even when you are found not guilty and even if the case was dismissed. So, you have a good reason to seal your record regardless of the finding in the case. Studies indicate that most employers will not hire anyone with a criminal record. Many people have difficulty buying a home or renting an apartment with a criminal record. Others will be rejected for internships and financial aid at colleges.
Note: If you have a record sealed, employers generally will not know that you have a sealed record. The laws of Massachusetts only allow certain employers to get any information about your sealed record:
- The Department of Early Education and Care and related subcontractors
- The Department of Children and Families and the Department of Youth Services if you are trying to adopt a child or take in a foster child.
- Criminal justice agencies, such as police, probation, courts and prosecutor's’ offices.
Generally it is advisable to speak to an experienced attorney to determine whether you should have your record sealed.