Massachusetts Law on Sealing your Criminal Record
Sealing of Massachusetts criminal records is governed by the Massachusetts General Laws c. 276 s. 100A – 100C. If you meet the associated requirements you may be able to successfully seal your criminal record and limit the access others may have to both that record and the underlying facts. In Massachusetts there are two methods of accomplishing this goal.
1. Sealing through direct Petition to the Board of Probation
You may be eligible to seal your criminal record through direct petition to the Board of Probation if you meet the requirements as set forth under the statute. If you have a felony case over 10 years old, misdemeanor charge over 5 years old, delinquency cases over 3 years old or a recorded offense which is no longer criminal, you may be able to seal your record through a relatively easy process. You should be aware, there are several types of cases that are ineligible even if they fit the time requirements as listed above.
If you are considering trying to seal a criminal record, you should speak with an attorney prior to doing so. You will want to consider the nature of the charge, whether this arrest is referenced on line and easily searchable etc. You will also need to do a formal request for your criminal record and subsequently want to request the associated certified docket sheets from each of the applicable courts for purposes of your records. Once the case is sealed – it is sealed even to you.
2. Sealing through the District Court where the charge exists.
If you have any cases that are not eligible for sealing through direct petition to the Board of Probation, then you must petition the court for purposes of having your case sealed. For instance if you had a misdemeanor case dismissed within the past five (5) years or felony case dismissed within the last ten (10) you are ineligible for direct sealing through the Board of Probation and must petition the court.
In the past few years, Massachusetts Supreme Court decided the case of Commonwealth v. Pon, 469 Mass 296 (2014), and implemented a new “good cause” standard in evaluating a record for purposes of sealing. Previously, the defendant was required to prevail on a balancing test showing that the value of sealing to the defendant clearly outweighs the constitutionally-based value of the record remaining open to society. Commonwealth v. Doe, 420 Mass. 142, 151 (1995). That is no longer the case.
The newly establish “good cause” analysis in Pon considers potential and reasonable disadvantages posed to the defendant and the potential that sealing “could” overcome these disadvantages, but does not require a specific showing. In determining whether good cause exists for sealing a defendant’s record, the court looks at six factors: (1) any disadvantages the defendant faces; (2) evidence of rehabilitation; (3) whether sealing would eliminate any asserted disadvantages; (4) the circumstances surrounding the charge at the time; (5) the passage of time since the offense; and (6) the nature and reasons for the disposition.
If you are considering sealing your criminal record in Essex, Suffolk, or Middlesex County, have Criminal Attorney Kristen Bonavita evaluate your case for free as soon as possible, contact Criminal Attorney Bonavita at: 978-376-6746 or complete our case evaluation form.