In 2010 the Massachusetts legislature passed (and the governor signed) the Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) Reform Act. The statute went into effect on May 4, 2012. Among other provisions, the new law shortens the waiting period before one is eligible to seal certain felonies and misdemeanors and puts greater limits on criminal record information given to employers and others.
Massachusetts differs from many other states in that its laws do not provide for expungement of criminal records. Expungement effectively erases records of criminal convictions, arrests, and police reports as if they never existed. Sealing, on the other hand, simply keeps those records confidential on some level. In addition, the sealing process in Massachusetts only applies to court and probation records and does not affect the records of the police or other arresting agencies.
Criminal Records that Are Eligible to Be Sealed
The sealing process generally does not happen automatically, and only applies to certain types of court and probation records. The following types of records may be sealed:
1. Certain convictions or admissions, after the obligatory waiting period.
2. Cases that were dismissed without probation, or that resulted in a not guilty finding. These records may be eligible to be sealed immediately.
3. A recorded offense that is no longer a crime.
A defendant or attorney should request the relevant criminal records before applying to have them sealed, just to make sure they are eligible for sealing. There are numerous specific crimes for which, if you are convicted, you are not eligible to have the records sealed or the process for doing so is much more arduous than usual.
Changes to Record Sealing After CORI Reform
The CORI reform law makes the following changes to the process of sealing court records after a waiting period:
1. Lowers waiting period to seal felonies from 15 to 10 years.
2. Lowers waiting period to seal misdemeanors from 10 to 5 years.
3. The clock on the waiting period now begins to toll either on the day the defendant is released from custody, or (if there is no incarceration) on the date of disposition. Under the old law, the clock did not beginl until the end of all court supervision, including incarceration, parole, and probation.
4. Any new criminal conviction causes the waiting period to start over again. A defendant cannot get his criminal record sealed until the obligatory waiting period has passed since any criminal conviction.
5. To apply to have a criminal record sealed, the petitioner should submit a one-page petition (available online) to the Office of the Commissioner of Probation.
As always, anyone attempting to navigate the criminal justice system will want to find quality legal representation with expertise in criminal law. If you have a criminal record in Massachusetts and are interested in having it sealed, you should immediately seek out the assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney. Contact Edward R. Molari, Attorney at Law, today for a confidential consultation.
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