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Is it possible to seal a criminal record in Massachusetts?

Making mistakes and errors in judgment are part of being human. It's through such mistakes that an individual grows and learns to make different and better choices. Unfortunately, some mistakes have much greater repercussion sand an individual who drinks and drives or experiments with drugs may be arrested and convicted of criminal charges.

Having a criminal record can negatively impact an individual's life in numerous ways. For example, an individual who has a criminal record that is visible via a Massachusetts' criminal offender record information or CORI, may experience difficulties in obtaining housing or a job. The stigma that remains tied to individuals who have criminal records can follow and haunt them for years and some may therefore choose to explore having their records sealed.

Individuals who were convicted of certain misdemeanor or felony charges may be able to have their criminal records sealed. The main caveat is that an individual must wait five years from the date of a misdemeanor conviction or 10 years from a felony conviction before he or she can apply to have a record sealed. A form known as a petition to seal must be completed and sent via U.S. mail to the state commissioner of probation.

Many people may be surprised to learn that even criminal cases that end in a not guilty verdict or a dismissal of charges are still visible via the CORI system and can still negatively impact an individual's ability to secure employment and housing. In these types of cases, an individual can go to court and request that a judge seal a record even if the required five or 10-year waiting period has not elapsed.

In most cases, once a record has been sealed, it is no longer visible to prospective employers or landlords. There are, however, some criminal convictions that cannot be sealed. These include offenses related to firearms, perjury, resisting arrest and sex crimes.

Individuals who have questions about sealing a criminal record can contact a criminal defense attorney. A defense attorney can assist in completing and filing a petition and also represent individuals in court who choose to request that a record be sealed prior to the end of a five or 10-year waiting period.

Source: Mass Legal Help, "Sealing my CORI," March 29, 2016

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