Many people, perhaps more than you think, have criminal records of some sort. Whether the record concerns a college indiscretion involving too much alcohol or an arrest resulting from participation in a political protest, the existence of a criminal record can pose significant challenges. These challenges are often referred to as “collateral consequences,” and can include the following kinds of issues:
· Difficulty obtaining certain types of employment;
· Denial or loss of a professional license;
· Denial of admission to academic programs;
· Harsher sentencing in future cases;
· Damage to your reputation in the community.
Courts recognize the need to balance the public’s right to access information about what occurs in open court against an individual’s right to privacy. The privacy right is particularly salient when people are arrested but never convicted of a crime. This may occur in a situation where a prosecutor determines a case is not worth pursuing or extenuating circumstances justified a defendant’s behavior. In other cases, a defendant may enter into a diversionary program where they must comply with certain conditions in return for the prosecutor dropping the case against them. The latter example often occurs with a first-time “operating while intoxicated” (OUI) offender, who are frequently offered plea deals whereby they must surrender their licenses and complete rehabilitative programs. If an offender successfully complete the program, the OUI case against them is dropped.
The Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) of Massachusetts recently recognized the importance of allowing defendants whose cases are case dismissed to seal their criminal records and avoid any further consequences of that case. The previous standard required a defendant to demonstrate that the value of sealing his or her record outweighs the value of the record staying open and available to society. It also required the defendant to specify the harm he or she would suffer if the record stayed open.
Courts must now examine the following factors when deciding whether to seal a record:
· The disadvantages suffered by the defendant if the record is not sealed;
· Evidence of the defendant’s rehabilitation, or other signs the defendant could overcome the disadvantages once the record is sealed;
· Evidence of the offense that may indicate the defendant’s future success or recidivism;
· The amount of time that passed since the dismissal and the reason for that disposition.
In setting out this new test, the SJC expressly declined to follow the standard set out by the First Circuit Court of Appeals, which requires that the defendant show a “compelling interest” to seal a record.
Contact a Massachusetts Criminal Defense Attorney for Help Today
If a criminal charge against you was dismissed, or your case was entered nolle prosequi, and you wish to have your criminal record sealed, contact a knowledgeable Massachusetts criminal defense lawyer for assistance as soon as possible. Attorney Edward R. Molari is highly experienced in the area of criminal defense, and stays up to date on changing standards and laws in Massachusetts. Mr. Molari will help to seal your criminal record and avoid collateral consequences stemming from your arrest. Contact our office today at (617) 942-1532 to schedule a free consultation.