How to Seal A Criminal Record in Massachusetts

If you have a criminal conviction that shows up on your record in a background check, we can help clear your record from potential employers and other searchers. In most cases, if you have a CWOF that has been dismissed or a misdemeanor offense conviction that is more than 5 years old, or more than 10 years old for a felony, you may be eligible to have your criminal record sealed.

Criminal Charge in Massachusetts? Call Attorney Russell Matson at (781) 817-6332.
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Having your record sealed means that potential employers, landlords, or anyone else who does a background search will not find any CORI (Criminal Offender Record Information) information that shows a criminal history.

We can take care of the sometimes complicated paperwork and court appearance requirements to get your record cleared. Please call for a consultation.

I didn’t get hired for a job because I failed a background check. How can I fix a criminal incident that shows up on my record?

We get people calling in this situation quite a lot. They didn’t know a previous incident with the law was going to cause a problem until it happened. This can be true even if you weren’t convicted. Or maybe you are trying to get a job at a place that has deeper than standard CORI background check viewing access (see below).

A record seal may be the solution if you qualify. We can discuss your exact problem and confirm if sealing your record will solve it for you.

Why have your Record Sealed?

Your CORI report will show anytime you have been charged with a crime or arrested, even if found not guilty or dismissed.

For any job, rental agreement, and even many volunteer opportunities, background checks are standard. Having a visible criminal history or conviction may get you passed over for a job opportunity without you even knowing it. In addition, most volunteer opportunities that involve kids require a background check.

More than two-thirds (69%) of employers conduct background checks on job candidates, according to the Society of Human Resource Management.

Background checks are standard and required by schools or civic organizations for volunteering with kids, including coaching soccer, baseball, or other school sports, volunteering at schools or for field trips, boy scouts or girl scouts,  any type of mentoring, teaching or tutoring, or practically any formal interaction with children.

Volunteering with law enforcement, firearms licensing, and adoption agencies are other situations where background checks are standard.
sealedrecord
If you are asked on any form or by any person, you can legally and truthfully say you have “no record”.

Doesn’t MASS CORI Reform fix this automatically?

In some cases it does. Most misdemeanors convictions no longer appear after 5 years, and felonies after 10 years for a standard background search.

However:

  1. Employers and organizations that have higher than standard or required level 1 access can view non-convictions such as dismissals, a nolle prosequi or a CWOF that ended in a dismissal.
  2. If you want to work or volunteer for one of these employers or organizations you will need to have your CORI sealed. For example, schools, hospitals, and any organizations and business that work with vulnerable populations like children and the elderly can see all cases whether they ended in a conviction or not, but NOT records that have been sealed.
  3. If you have a non-conviction on your record that you want cleared (sealed) earlier than the 5 or 10 year waiting period, you have to petition the court.

What Does A Sealed Record Look Like?

A sealed record is not a “red flag” of any kind.  A CORI report with a sealed record will show “No Adult Criminal Records on File”.

Who is Eligible to have a Mass Criminal Record Sealed?

Most non-convictions, dismissals, and not-guilty verdicts are eligible to be sealed immediately. A CWOF (Continuance without a finding) is eligible for sealing once the probation term has ended and the case has been dismissed.

Some misdemeanor drug convictions are eligible to be sealed without a 5-year wait, such as possession of marijuana (class D substance) or a class E substance. The court must be petitioned to get this done.

Most misdemeanor convictions (guilty) are eligible after 5 years if no other incidents.

Most Felony convictions are eligible after 10 years if no other incidents.

Now that marijuana has been legalized, can I get my drug charge sealed?

Maybe. Massachusetts officially legalized 1 ounce on your person, and 10 ounces in your home. Before legalization, simple possession of under an ounce has been a civil violation. But getting caught with more than one ounce, such as in a search of your home could easily result in an intent to distribute felony charge.

Under the rules for sealing a record in Massachusetts, anything that is no longer a crime is eligible for sealing through the commissioner of probation. There is no waiting period for sealing these records.

Give us a call to see if we can help.

Do I Need A Lawyer to Have My Record Sealed?

It isn’t absolutely necessary, no. However, since some records sealing requires one or more appearances before a judge to have the records sealed, many people find the process daunting and want to get it done right, and quickly.

Immediately sealing a non-conviction criminal case that was dismissed, or where you were found not guilty requires a court date and a judge to approve it. After 5 years for a misdemeanor, and 10 for a felony charge, both convictions and non-conviction record sealing can be done with paperwork filed through the Commissioner of Probation

In most standard cases, it is possible to do it yourself, but many people find the paperwork and process difficult and time-consuming, so they choose to hire us to make sure it gets done correctly and promptly.

When Does It Make Sense To Hire a Lawyer to Seal a Criminal Record?

  • If you need to Petition the Court. In cases where a judge has to agree to seal your record, you may want a lawyer to write the petition and appear in front of a judge on your behalf to make sure the best argument is made on your behalf. Petitioning the court is required to seal a non-conviction record prior to 5 years for a misdemeanor, or 10 for a felony conviction.
  • If you need it done as fast as possible. If you found out you didn’t get a job because of a CORI check, and you have other interviews or job opportunities pending, you might want to hire us to accelerate the process and make sure it gets done right the first time.
  • If you live out of state. If you need a Massachusetts record sealed and fixing it from where you live out of state is a burden.

How Long Does it After My Record is Sealed for my CORI to Clear?

In the past it has taken a few months. However, the Probation Service is working to get it down to a few days.

I live out of state. Do I have to be present for you to seal my record?

Usually, yes, but not always.

That depends of what form of sealing you are eligible for. If you are eligible to seal through the Commissioner of Probation, then your presence is not necessary. If the cases that you are seeking to seal require a petition to the court, then your appearance is generally required. We can file a motion to waive appearance to try to avoid that.

After the petition is filed, we will know when the court date is (usually 3-4 weeks later) and let you know when you have to be here, if you do.

Can I get a license to carry a firearm (LTC) if I get my felony conviction sealed?

No. Any felony conviction makes you ineligible for a license to carry.

Sealing the record will not help you, since law enforcement has access to see that you have a sealed felony record and will deny the request. Even if it is decades old and a minor felony offense, a felony conviction makes you permanently ineligible.

The only possible way around this is a pardon from the Governor, but those are essentially never granted.

What about other offenses?

An OUI conviction, NOT a CWOF (or any misdemeanor with a POSSIBLE conviction of 2 years in jail will make you ineligible for an LTC or and FID (firearms identification) card.

What about private background check services?

Unfortunately, there is very little we can do to prevent these services from selling information about you that was public at one time.

These for-profit background check companies can access the public records when they are available and aren’t obligated to have current or accurate information.

For example, they may scan local news accounts and show an arrest or incident from someone who has the same name as you!

Or even if their initial information is accurate, it is very common for them to show information about an arrest, but no follow up information that didn’t make the news, such as if the case was dismissed. There are even online services that deliberately keep old information, and will charge you a fee to have it cleared. This is little more than extortion as a business model, but it unfortunately exists.

The good news is that employers will generally be using official state sources.

Who Will Be Able to Find Out About My Record?

What employers have what level of access? This (complicated) chart explains it, effective May 4, 2012.

Category of AccessCORI System Must ReturnCORI System Will Not Return
Personal Access
  • 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.
  • Any Sealed or Juvenile Offense
Required 1
  • All Adult/Youthful Offender convictions and pending offenses
  • Any sealed, juvenile, civil, and non-incarcerable offenses or non-convictions
Required 2
  • All adult/youthful offender convictions, non-convictions, and pending offenses
  • Any sealed, juvenile, civil, or non-incarcerable offenses.
Required 3
  • All adult/youthful offender and juvenile offender convictions, non-convictions, and pending offenses.
  • Any sealed, civil, or non-incarcerable offenses.
Required 4
  • All adult/youthful offender and juvenile offender convictions, non-convictions, and pending offenses as well as sealed case indicators. In the scenario that actual sealed record data is available, then such records will be provided along with the indication that the arraignment is sealed.
  • Any civil or non-incarcerable offenses.
Standard Access
  • If the offense is a murder, manslaughter or sex offense and the disposition is a conviction.
  • If the offense is a misdemeanor, the disposition is a conviction and the disposition date or incarceration release date is less than 5 years prior to the CORI Request Date, the system must return the offense AND all other convicted offenses
  • If the offense is a felony, the disposition is a conviction, and the disposition date or incarceration release date occurred less than 10 years prior to the CORI request date, the system must return the offense AND all other convicted offenses.
  • If the offense is pending
  • If the offense disposition is a non-conviction.
  • If the offense is a misdemeanor, the disposition is a conviction and the disposition date and incarceration release date occurred 5 or more years prior to the CORI Request Date.
  • If the offense is a felony, the disposition is a conviction and the disposition date and incarceration release date are 10 or more years prior to the CORI Request Date.
  • If the offense is sealed, juvenile, or non-incarcerable.

 

The youthful offender could be described as the superior court equivalent of a juvenile offender.

Source: Mass.gov

What Do Those Categories of Access Mean?

Standard access is what most employers, landlords, and organizations get when they do a CORI search. The can see sex offenses, murder/manslaughter, or any misdemeanor conviction within 5 years or felony within 10 years.

Required 1: This is the level just above standard access. It allows all convictions even after the 5/10 year period has elapsed for a misdemeanor/felony offense. It does not show non-convictions, juvenile or sealed records.

Required 1 level access is given to a variety of different specific employers and organizations for the purposes of employment and volunteer screening, such as: Amusement park operators, banks, colleges, EOHHS funded vendors, Agencies, Hospitals, Insurance Companies, Private Investigators, Property management or public housing organizations for the purpose of public or subsidized housing placement, security guard companies, security system installers, or organizations screening for AmeriCorps volunteers.

Required 2: They can see non-convictions, and pending offenses, but not juvenile or sealed convictions.

Organizations that deal with the direct care of elderly populations and small children get this access for volunteers and employment searches. Specifically, assisted living facilities, Councils on Aging, in-home care agencies, nursing homes, accredited public and private schools, religious organizations, organizations with programs for under 18, and day care centers.

Required 3: They can see juvenile convictions, but not sealed convictions.   Overnight Camps get this high level of access, so they can see background checks for employees, and volunteers.

Overnight Camps get this high level of access, so they can see background checks for employees, and volunteers.

Required 4: Essentially no one has “Required 4” access, except the courts themselves in unusual circumstances.  This is the only level that can ever access a sealed record.

 

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