Expungement and Record Sealing in Massachusetts
What Happens When Your Case Is Expunged or Your Record Is Sealed?
In legal terms, “expungement” refers to the process through which a record of criminal conviction is destroyed from state or federal record. An expungement directs the court to treat a criminal conviction like it never happened. This process removes the conviction from the defendant’s criminal record entirely.
Expungement proceedings occur in state courts. You might seek expungement if you are applying for government employment or if you are having issues seeking employment in other areas. Expungement can also help individuals avoid deportation and other immigration-related problems.
Expunging and sealing records are not the same. Expunging your record means that it will no longer be accessible by the court or any other state, municipal, or county agencies. When a criminal record is “sealed,” on the other hand, it simply gives the appearance that the conviction has been cleared because it is not readily available for public access. The records can still be accessed through a court order.
Expungement and record sealing share many of the same benefits. Both orders can greatly improve the lives of the individuals who achieve them.Some of the benefits of getting your criminal conviction expunged or sealed include:
- Relief from difficulties with housing, both through landlords and public assistance
- Access to federal benefit programs
- Greater chances of employment
- Access to licenses needed for certain kinds of employment
- Greater chances of admission to higher education
- Greater chances of enlisting in the armed forces
- Access to grants, loans, or work assistance programs for students in higher education
About Record Expungement for Individuals Under 21
Massachusetts has been called a blueprint state for criminal reform, and the state is trying to help high risk young adults turn their lives around with more assistance and less long-term turmoil. For those seeking relief in their expungement, the process is slightly more complicated unless the individual is age 21 or younger. This is because eligibility for relief is limited to cases that happened before the individual’s 21st birthday to mistakes in judicial proceedings and to cases where the offense has been decriminalized. Furthermore, the Massachusetts statewide youth-led policy coalition that helps high-risk young adults known as Teens Leading the Way advocates for a new bill that will expand individual’s eligibility to expunge records received before age 21 and raise the juvenile court jurisdiction to age 21 as well. The hope is that this will help the young adults of Massachusetts make positive decisions moving forward and become highly functional members of society.
How Does the Expungement Process Work in Massachusetts?
Increasingly more often, Massachusetts residents who have a history of criminal activity are interested in expunging their records. Advocates are trying to help these people, so they are holding workshops at courthouses in Dorchester and Roxbury. Greater Boston Legal Services (GBLS) leads the workshops and gives advice on how individuals can go about sealing their Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) from public access.
A new statute has been put into place in Massachusetts that encourages individuals to seek sealing orders. Massachusetts has allowed a felony record to be sealed seven years after the individual has been found guilty or released from incarceration. As for a misdemeanor, the waiting period before an individual is eligible for expunction is three years. This new rule has come about after the recent criminal justice reform changes.
In order to get a criminal record expunged, the petitioner must obtain a copy of their CORI report from the Department of Criminal Justice Information, go through a reviewing period, and file their form with the Office of the Commissioner of Probation. Specifically, they must fill out the Petition to Expunge Form. They are free to provide additional information to support their case, which an attorney like the ones on the team at Bernazzani Law can help with. If they meet all of the criteria listed on the petition, the office will notify the District Attorney’s Office in the county of the offense. Another option would be to go straight to court and win a ruling to have the record expunged, in which case a lawyer would be helpful as well.The state of Massachusetts is becoming more cooperative in helping individuals seal or expunge their criminal records, and the team at Bernazzani Law is eager to help as well. Give us a call at (603) 261-2214 or contact us online to find out how one of our experienced attorneys can help you win your case and start your next chapter.
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