Massachusetts CORI Reform

CORI stands for Criminal Offender Record Information. It is the listing of criminal convictions, arrests, and open criminal cases.

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In 2010, Massachusetts passed a law to restrict access to some CORI information, in an effort to help people with criminal charges in their past from being discriminated against. In general, access to records of most misdemeanor criminal charges will be restricted after 5 years or a clean record, and 10 years in the case of felony charges.

As of November 4, 2010, Employers in Massachusetts cannot ask about convictions on “initial” job applications.

Standard CORI Access for Employers and Landlords

Many employers and landlords have standard access to CORI via the Internet, for a fee, for the purpose of screening current and prospective employees, volunteers, and tenants (as of May 4, 2012).  The standard access CORI report contains the information outlined below:

What convictions show up on a Massachusetts CORI report?

  • All murder, manslaughter, and sex offense convictions.
  • Any felony convictions that occurred within the last 10 years or for which the applicant was incarcerated within the last 10 years; and
  • Any misdemeanor convictions that occurred within the last 5 years or for which the applicant was incarcerated within the last 5 years.
  • CWOFs are NOT convictions for purposes of this law. In other words, if a person’s case was continued without a finding for a specific period of time and after that time period has passed, the CWOF will not appear on the Standard CORI.

Note: If any criminal conviction qualifies to be included on the CORI report under the above rules, then all prior convictions will appear on the CORI report as well, regardless of when they occurred.

Do Open Criminal Cases show up on a CORI report? 

Yes. If you have been arraigned on a charge, a pending criminal charge will show as open on a Massachusetts CORI report.

Does a CWOF show up on a criminal record background check?

If the case has been resolved as a CWOF (continuation without a finding) the case will show on CORI as open during the time of that continuance.

When the CWOF probation period has passed (usually a year or 6 months), then the case no longer shows up to employers with Standard or Required Level 1 Access. All access levels above Required Level 1 will still be able to see the CWOF on your CORI.

I have a Clerk’s Hearing coming up, does it show on my record?

No, if you have received a citation to a clerk magistrate’s hearing, a criminal citation does not show up on a CORI, since you haven’t been charged yet.

If the clerk issues the criminal complaint and you are arraigned (see above, open criminal cases), then an open criminal charge will show up. But if you win at the hearing, it will not.

Do sealed records show up on a CORI?

No, in most cases sealed records will never appear on a CORI report, and the report will not show that a sealed record exists.

Exceptions to this rule where a sealed record will show up include searches:

  • by law enforcement agencies
  • by federal agencies
  • by some state agencies such as the DPU/ Transportation Network Company Division for Lyft/Uber driver background checks
  • for the purpose of getting a licence to carry
  • for the purpose of adopting or fostering a child, and
  • during the process of licensing a daycare.

Does a charge that got dismissed or a Not Guilty show up on a CORI check?

In some cases, yes. If the employer or organization has higher than standard or required level 1 access (Required Level 2 or above), they can see that you had a criminal charge that was dismissed, or that you were found not guilty of the offense. Required 2 access is primarily reserved for employers who work with children or the elderly.

Do I Still Need My Record Sealed after CORI has been reformed?

It depends. Many people choose to get their CORI sealed because:

  1. They want to be able to legally say that they have not been charged or convicted of a crime. In addition to preventing potential employers or landlords from seeing your criminal record, sealing oalso gives you the ability to legally answer “No Record” if asked.
  2. Organizations with higher than standard or required level 1 access that perform a background check can still see:
    1. All adult criminal convictions.
    2. Criminal non-convictions, such as cases that were dismissed, or where you were found not guilty.
    3. These groups include organizations that work with children and the elderly. For employment at these companies and institutions or even just volunteering to coach soccer, be a chaperone on a school field trip, or a boy or girl scout troop leader, you need to clear a detailed CORI check.

For more info on how to get your record sealed, see our criminal record sealing page.

What Can an Employer, Landlord, or other Group Doing a Background Check See on a CORI?

Most Employers, Landlords, or volunteer groups have “Standard” access. There are other access levels for more sensitive occupations, groups or employers who work with children, the elderly, or other vulnerable populations.

CORI Viewing Access Levels

Standard Access

Will Show

  • All adult/youthful offender convictions, non-convictions and pending cases, as well as all civil and non-incarcerable offenses must appear in their own distinct sections of the CORI report

Will Not Show

  • Any Sealed or Juvenile Offense

Who has Standard Access?

  • Most Typical Employers
  • Private Landlords
  • Colleges, Universities, or Technical Institutions
  • Out of State Municipalities or State Agencies
  • Private Schools that are UNACCREDITED in MA
  • Private Management Companies
  • Property Management Companies (except as required for public housing placement)
  • Real Estate Agencies
  • Organizations for Adults (for standard employment and volunteers)

More on access levels for CORI.

Can I fight an employer who didn’t hire me because of a background check?

It is difficult.

Employers who make hiring decisions based on official CORI reports within 90 days of receiving the reports shall be held harmless in negligent hiring lawsuits that allege additional criminal background checks should have been conducted.

In addition, the new law also includes the following provisions:

  • Employers that decide not to hire applicants or take adverse actions based on criminal histories in CORI reports must first give applicants copies of the reports.
  • Employers conducting five (5) or more criminal background checks per year must maintain a written criminal offender record information policy.
  • Employers are prohibited from maintaining CORI records of former employees or unsuccessful job applicants for more than seven years from the last date of employment or from the date of the decision not to hire the job applicant.

Employers who continue to ask questions on initial written applications about felony or misdemeanor convictions after that date may be subject to liability under the new law, experts warn. The other provisions described regarding the new law do not take effect until February 6, 2012.

Further Reading:

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