Criminal Record Sealing

Being convicted of a crime in Massachusetts is never a pleasant ordeal. In addition to the fines, jail time, and burdensome court obligations, you have to think about your reputation. A criminal conviction has personal and professional consequences. But thanks to the laws of Massachusetts, individuals with criminal records can have their record sealed.

Contact the Law Offices of Kathleen McCarthy to speak with a Boston criminal record attorney. Call 978-975-8060 to speak with Kathleen McCarthy directly, or email her to schedule a consultation. Hiring an attorney to have your criminal record sealed can help you protect your criminal history amongst the public. The sooner you call her, the sooner she can help you.

What does it mean to “seal your criminal record?”

In Massachusetts, sealing your criminal record does not “clean” your record entirely. Sealing your criminal record will permit fewer people to view it such as employers, landlords, and the general public. Having your records sealed allows you to honestly say you have no criminal record when applying for a job. Further, your criminal record will not be disseminated by the Department of Criminal Justice Information Services.

There are three circumstances in which a person can have their criminal record sealed:

  1. A conviction can be sealed after the mandated waiting period is completed;
  2. If the case was dismissed, or resulted in not guilty finding; or
  3. A recorded offense is no longer considered a crime.

The following convictions can never be sealed:

  1. A person convicted of a sex offense is eligible to have their criminal record sealed after 15 years from the date of their final disposition, supervision, or incarceration. However, if the person is required to register as a sex offender, or is classified as a Level 2 or 3 sex offender, then he/she cannot have their criminal record sealed.
  2. Convictions concerning crimes against public justice such as perjury, corruption, and intimidation of a witness.

If your criminal record is sealed, law enforcement agencies will still have access to your record.

How to Seal Massachusetts Criminal Record

In Massachusetts, the conviction sealing process is governed by MCL Chapter 276 Section 100A. Depending on the nature of your criminal record, you may be able to have it sealed via mail. You will be required to send a form to the Office of the Commissioner of Probation. You are eligible to file for a criminal record sealing 5 years from the date of your conviction of a misdemeanor, or after jail or prison time and 10 years after you were found guilty for a felony conviction, or after jail and prison time. A skilled criminal defense attorney should first review your record before you choose this option. Some convictions cannot be sealed by mail.

You also have the option to have your case sealed in court. A judge will seal your case if it was dismissed, ended in a “not guilty” verdict, or the prosecutor dropped the case. There is no waiting requirement if one of the above requirements is met. For first time drug offenders, the judge will seal your criminal record if you did not violate your probation term, or any court orders associated with your case.

You will need to file a written motion to have your record sealed in court. The motion must detail facts that justify overriding the presumption of public access to your court records. It is imperative that you contact a skilled criminal record sealing attorney to draft your motion. As a Boston criminal record attorney, Kathleen McCarthy knows firsthand the harmful impact a poorly written motion can have on your case. Attorney McCarthy has written several motions throughout her legal career which have been granted by the court.

In addition to filing a motion with the court, a hearing will be held in which the judge will determine whether you have made a credible prima facie case for sealing. Attorney McCarthy has experience making appearances on behalf of clients to prove their case. Do not go to court unrepresented. If your motion is denied, you may be barred from refiling it later. You also have the option to appeal the denial with the Massachusetts Appeals Court.

If a credible prima facie case is made before the judge, then a formal hearing will be held. The district attorney and your probation officer may appear at this hearing and provide statements (including evidence) as to why your criminal record should not be sealed. Your defense attorney can disprove the district attorney’s and your probation officer’s arguments. If your motion is granted, the judge will complete the form used to notify the Office of the Commissioner of Probation to have your record sealed.

Note, some criminal courts have different requirements pursuant to local rules that permit the sealing of criminal records under certain circumstances outside the ones discussed above. For example, pursuant to Boston Municipal Court Standing Order 1-09, a person can petition to have their criminal record sealed if their case resulted in not guilty finding, no probable cause finding, or dismissal without probation entered by the court. Preliminary and formal hearings are also required with BMC.

Contact Kathleen McCarthy for a consultation. She will review your case and provide you with legal guidance and counseling. She provides legal representation to Boston area residents.