CRIMINAL RECORD SEALING

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Hinman Law Blog

Criminal Record Sealing & Expungement

If you have a criminal record, it can wreak havoc on your life. It can affect your ability to get housing, a job, and financial assistance. Every time you apply for a job, you will have to disclose your past, or worry about background checks that employers run as a matter of routine these days. It is important that you hire an attorney to get your record sealed as soon as you can.

Are you Eligible to Have Your Criminal Record Sealed?

The laws regarding Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) were reformed in May 2012. Misdemeanor crimes can now be sealed 5 years after the date of conviction, or 5 years after any period of incarceration (whichever is more recent). Felonies can be sealed 10 years after the conviction date or period of incarceration. It should be noted that these regulations may not apply to federal or out-of-state convictions. Restraining Orders are considered felonies for purposes of CORI laws. Sex Offenses are governed by the sex offender registry laws, and are much more difficult to have sealed. If you are still required to register as a sex offender, you cannot get the underlying sex offense sealed. If you are convicted of a new crime, this “restarts the clock” for the waiting period for record sealing.

Your attorney can also petition the Court through a separate process to have any non-convictions on your record sealed (acquittals or dismissals). In these cases, the question will not be the age of the case. A judge has discretion and will consider a balancing test. The judge will weigh the following factors:

  1. Does leaving the record open put the defendant at risk or harm; and
  2. Does the defendant’s interest in sealing the record outweigh the public’s First Amendment right to see the record; and
  3. Is there a compelling interest in sealing the record; and
  4. Would substantial justice be served by sealing the record?

If the crime for which you were convicted is no longer crime in Massachusetts, you should immediately try to have the offense sealed on this basis. For example, certain Possession of Marijuana offenses are no longer criminal in Massachusetts. There is a separate process to do this that your attorney can walk you through.

Once your record is sealed, it will not show up when employers do CORI checks, and it will no longer hinder your ability to gain employment. There may be limited situations where a sealed record can still be accessed such as immigration and custody hearings. These are details that can be discussed with your attorney.

What if I have been denied Housing or a Job because of my Record?

You should be aware that you do have certain due process rights when it comes to your CORI. If you have been denied employment or housing based on a criminal record, you should speak to attorney. Employers, landlords, and the Housing Authority are required by law to follow certain procedures with regarding to your CORI, and an attorney can determine if your rights under the CORI laws were violated.

Having Your Record Expunged

Expungment essentially means that your criminal record is destroyed. There is no expungement statute in Massachusetts, but there is case law that outlines when a record can be expunged. It is extremely difficult to have your record expunged in Massachusetts, and judges will only do so in very limited circumstances. One of the limited circumstances is if you were the victim of identity theft. Your attorney would have to present evidence that you were not the person who was convicted of the crimes on your record. Another limited circumstance, which is very rare, is a pardon from the Governor.

If you have a criminal record that you would like to have sealed, or if you feel that your rights under the CORI laws have been violated, you can contact Attorney Hinman for immediate assistance at 617-283-4480, or by using the form to the left.