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Petitions to Seal Records in Massachusetts FAQs

We all go through some life changing experiences but few are as altering as a conviction for a crime. After the conviction and sentencing, you try to move forward. Unfortunately, you may find that even after doing everything the courts ask, the past still haunts you and makes it difficult to move on.

There are some parts of the past that are not easily dealt with. One part that we can address is the criminal record. In some cases, you can take steps to seal the record so that this part of your past no longer haunts your future.

Why should I seal my criminal record?

Those who have a criminal record in Massachusetts are likely in the Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) system. In some situations, employers, housing providers, and higher-level institutions of learning like colleges can access this system and view a summary of the criminal case. This can make it difficult to move on with your life even after you have completed the requirements of the sentence.

Is it difficult to seal my criminal record?

It is easier than it once was. In 2014, the Supreme Judicial Court threw out the old standard which guided these cases in Massachusetts. The old standard basically prioritized the potential benefit of the public’s knowledge of the previous crime over the individual’s right to move on.

The new standard allows an individual to seal their record if they can show “good cause.” This basically means that the individual can show that the record puts them at a disadvantage. Examples could include evidence that the criminal record has made it difficult to do the following:

  • Get a job.
  • Get housing.
  • Move forward in your profession.
  • Volunteer.

These are just a few examples the judge could take into account when considering your request to seal your records. Other examples include evidence that you have taken steps to live a better life, like volunteering in the community, completing rehabilitation, and training to start a new profession.

How do I seal my record?

Those looking to seal a conviction can generally begin the process three years after a misdemeanor or seven years after a felony. There are situations that can allow an earlier start. An attorney can review your situation and discuss your options in more detail.

The process generally starts with filing a petition to seal your criminal record. Additional paperwork can include letters to explain why you should qualify and an affidavit, or sworn statement, that outlines how the criminal record has had a negative impact on your life. Some of the examples noted above can be helpful. Once paperwork is complete there are generally required court hearings.

It is important to note that you can seal more than just records of convictions. Other court holdings can also have a negative impact on your future as they still tarnish your record. A not guilty finding, a failure to indict, or dismissal can still pose an unnecessary hurdle towards your future goals. These can also qualify for the sealing process.

Taking control of this one part of the past, taking the steps to seal your record, can prove a valuable step forward and help you get your life back on track.


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