Overview of Massachusetts Criminal History Record Sealing or Expungements
UPDATED: June 19, 2018
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Clearing one's criminal record is a difficult thing to achieve in Massachusetts. Though CORI (Criminal Offender Record Information) reform changed many of the most difficult aspects of getting a record cleared in Massachusetts, important limitations remain. Expungement remains technically possible, but very difficult to obtain. The most common alternative to expungement – "sealing" – is rarely granted, though sealing will likely be more commonly granted, since reform occurred in the year 2010.
The state keeps a record of every criminal court appearance that occurs within state lines: Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI). If you were charged with a crime in Massachusetts, whether case dismissed (nol prossed) or found not guilty, you have a CORI. CORI is preserved for all charged crimes across all contexts, whether you are guilty or not. The Criminal History Systems Board (CHSB) keeps CORI records in Massachusetts. Situations when records may be sealed are detailed in this article and links below, along with CORI distinctions for juvenile criminal records.
A CORI, can cause a subject many problems in daily life. Finding jobs or housing, access to basic services, schooling and financial assistance can be incredibly difficult. These difficulties extend to the loss of the right to vote, hold public office, obtain child custody, own a gun, or in immigration cases, remaining in the United States.
Though removing a CORI from the record is difficult for most, the state of Massachusetts acknowledges a few circumstances in which the CORI can be removed. More commonly, the effects of having a CORI can be minimized.
In Massachusetts, the wait is usually 10 years after a felony conviction or 5 years after a misdemeanor conviction before any law enforcement agency or administrative agency is allowed to seal the record on conviction. This waiting period exists for applicants with or without representation. By motion before a court, your lawyer can sometimes have this wait period reduced for you. And in any case, the wait period is typically canceled only in cases where the conviction was (e.g.) for someone's first unlawful possession of a controlled substance, OR the charge was dismissed nolle prosequi, OR it was found that there was no probable cause to arrest, OR there was a verdict of not-guilty and pre-trial probation was successfully served.
One alternative for getting a record sealed is to receive a pardon from the Governor. This rarity is granted on a case-by-case basis by the Governor, and only with the advice and consent of the Executive Council (a group of eight individuals from various districts). The Advisory Board of Pardons receives pardon requests and presents any pardon recommendations to the Governor and Executive Council. For more information, see "Process for Sealing or Expunging Adult Criminal Records in Massachusetts."
Fees for sealing a criminal record can easily reach $2,000.00. You may want to contact a qualified record-sealing attorney to assess your case.
For other articles on Massachusetts expungement of criminal records, click on the following: