Expunging a Conviction in Massachusetts

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 Can I Expunge a Criminal Record in Massachusetts?

Expunging or sealing a Massachusetts criminal record is a powerful and effective approach to protecting your future when a Massachusetts criminal case is dismissed or even if you plead or are found guilty of a misdemeanor or felony in Massachusetts.

When your Massachusetts criminal case is sealed, it vanishes from view for practically all purposes, including employment applications, educational institutions, housing providers, and landlords. When you can ask the court to seal your case depends on the case’s outcome, which we explore further below.

What Is the Difference Between Sealing and Expungement in Massachusetts?

Expunging an adult Massachusetts criminal charge removes your criminal case from the books.

Massachusetts expungement laws define expungement as the permanent erasure or destruction of a record so that the record is no longer accessible to, or maintained by, the court, any criminal justice agencies, or any other state, municipal, or county agency.

Expungement is a beneficial solution for those with limited Massachusetts criminal histories. If you are not eligible to have your record expunged, you may be able to have your Massachusetts record sealed, which is frequently just as effective but is available to more individuals.

When Should I Seek Expungement in Massachusetts?

Sealing a Massachusetts criminal case restricts who has access to the criminal case’s record.
Remember that many non-expugnable records can still be sealed.

Expungement is the process of permanently erasing records.

Expungement may be offered for crimes older than seven years or misdemeanors older than three years if:

  1. You have no more than two criminal cases on your record. Multiple offenses stemming from the same incident are treated as a single offense.
  2. The offense(s) occurred before you turned twenty-one.
  3. The offense caused no death or significant bodily harm, and it was not committed with the intent to cause death or serious bodily harm.
  4. The crime was not committed while in possession of a lethal weapon. Dangerous weapons are defined in the Massachusetts penal statutes.
  5. The accused victim of the incident was not an elderly or disabled person.
  6. The offense you want to clear is not a sex offense, whether it involves a kid or is sexually violent.
  7. The offense is not driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol (DUI or OUI).
  8. The offense does not involve firearms or the illicit sale of a firearm.
  9. The offense does not violate any restraining or harassment prevention orders.
  10. The crime is not an assault or assault and battery on a family member.
  11. A person was wrongly designated as the defendant
  12. The offense was decriminalized
  13. The case was the result of errors by the police or others, or
  14. There were other miscarriages of justice

Are There Any Exceptions?

These are extremely uncommon exceptions:

  • Identity theft/unauthorized or false identification use (for example, someone impersonating you or using your name);
  • A decriminalized offense (for example, marijuana possession under 2 ounces; disrupting assembly or displaying disorderly behavior in an elementary or high school while a student; a juvenile case).
  • Law enforcement mistakes (for example, misidentification of a defendant;
  • Impairment, misconduct, or racial bias that caused a complaint to be filed in error or without probable cause);
  • Errors made by witnesses (civilians or experts)
  • Scandals;
  • Errors caused by faulty memory, perception, or other incapacity;
  • Errors caused by wrongdoing or negligence
  • A lack of scientific evidence to support expert judgment;
  • Errors committed by court personnel (for example, a complaint issued due to a clerical error or a docket entry mistake resulting in a penalty).
  • Provable court fraud (bribery of a judge or other fraud involving the court system itself).

If you meet the eligibility conditions, you can file your petition for expungement three years after the date of the misdemeanor offense and seven years after the date of the felony offense.

Many types of crimes, including violent crimes, sexual offenses, and violations of different restraining orders, are not eligible for sealing.

What If There Is an Error in My Criminal Record?

To have a Massachusetts criminal case dismissed, you must demonstrate that a substantial error or fraud resulted in your being wrongfully identified as the accused. This is not the same as not being guilty of an accusation. This indicates that the court misidentified you as the individual who should face criminal charges.

This generally happens to people who have the same name and birth date as the person who should have been charged. Other major errors, such as court fraud, may result in the erasure of your Massachusetts criminal record.

Who Can Access Sealed Records in Massachusetts?

For the most part, sealing your Massachusetts criminal record or criminal case is as effective as expunging a case.

This will conceal your arrest for the offense from any potential employers, landlords, and educational institutions.

Contrary to popular belief, a sealed Massachusetts criminal case will be hidden from view and erased from your Massachusetts third-party background checks.

There will be no accessible record at all. There will NOT be an entry stating that a case formerly existed in any way or that it has been sealed or withdrawn from public view in any way.

Once your criminal record in Massachusetts has been sealed, only law enforcement will have access to it.

In very few situations, the state, or a town or city, can access your sealed record if you apply for a license to carry a handgun.

Finally, if you are in family court for child custody or domestic abuse after your Massachusetts criminal record has been sealed, the family court judge can sometimes read your sealed record “in camera,” which means that only the judge sees it.

What is the Overall Expungement Process in Massachusetts?

If you wish to have your records sealed in the state of Massachusetts, you must file a request in writing with the Massachusetts Commissioner of Probation, who will make a decision within 60 days.

After receiving your request, an analysis will follow to determine whether you are eligible to have your records sealed. Criminal records are maintained by the Massachusetts department known as Criminal Offender Record Information or “CORI”.

If your case is qualified for expungement, the District Attorney’s office is notified and given a chance to protest. The Commissioner of Probation sends the petition to court after 65 days, and if there are no objections, the expungement is approved.

If an objection arises, a hearing is normally scheduled after 21 days.

The United States Department of Justice (USDJ) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) will be forced to remove the records from law enforcement databases as soon as the petition is granted. It will be as though you were never arrested or convicted of the crime in the first place.

Do I Have to Tell Employers or Other Institutions About My Sealed Massachusetts Criminal Record?

No. If you have had a Massachusetts criminal case sealed, you can honestly answer “no record” under the state’s record-sealing statute.

If a possible employer, educational institution, or housing provider inquires with the Massachusetts Department of Criminal Justice Information Services (DCJIS) or the Department of Probation if you have a criminal record, both organizations must respond that you do not.

Do I Need a Massachusetts Expungement Lawyer?

For further assistance, consider posting your case to a Massachusetts expungement attorney using LegalMatch. Your attorney can provide you with legal guidance and representation for your case.


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