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Is Expungement an Option for Convictions on my Criminal Record?

A criminal record presents a major hurdle to many people. A record containing a list of previous convictions can make it difficult to obtain employment, pursue educational opportunities and/or find housing. Unfortunately, even a history of arrests may lead to similar problems. That can be true even if the arrest does not result in any conviction. The Center for American Progress report that an estimated 9 out of every 10 employers run a background check before considering an applicant for employment. An estimated 3 out of 5 colleges do the same. As a result, the presence of any criminal record – detailing arrests or convictions – can reduce the chances of making it into an interview room or having a probationary period of employment to prove one’s worth as a valuable team member.

If you have a criminal record, you are not alone. The Center for American Progress also report that over 70 million Americans have a criminal record. This translates to roughly one in three adults. There are options to remove this hurdle. The best example: expungement.

What is expungement?

The exact definition can vary by state. In Massachusetts, expungement is defined as having the record “permanently destroyed.” As a result, the courts, municipals, county agencies and other states can no longer access the record.

Please note that expungement is never an option for domestic violence convictions.

How do I get an expungement?

In Massachusetts, there are two types of expungement:  time-based expungement and non-time-based expungement.  Regarding non-time based expungement, the standard is more difficult to meet; you need to demonstrate that the person arrested for the crime was falsely using your identity, or the conviction is for an offense that is no longer a crime (e.g., possession of a small amount of marijuana), or some fraud was perpetrated upon the court.  This is a difficult standard to meet, you should seek the advice of an experienced criminal defense attorney to see if your case qualifies.

Regarding time-based expungement, there are other requirements, the most vital is that the offense occurred when you were under 21 years old.  Unless you were less than 21 at the time, that crime will not qualify for expungement.  If you were indeed under 21, however, as long as the conviction is not for certain delineated offense (including drunk driving, domestic assault and battery, sex offenses and others) and you wait 7 years for a felony or 3 years for a misdemeanor, you may be able to get your record expunged.

Please note that these new regulations regarding expungement have not affected your right to get your criminal record sealed.  We have written in other articles about the sealing process.  Petitions to seal are not complete remedy like expungement is, but they are very effective.  And sometimes they are your only option.

As noted above, even the presence of an arrest can result in a hurdle towards employment, education and housing opportunities. Expungement can help remove this hurdle and clear the path towards a brighter future.  Please get advice from a qualified criminal defense lawyer to discuss your options.


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