In the state of Massachusetts, individuals with past criminal records may have the opportunity to seal their records under certain circumstances. Sealing records can provide a fresh start, allowing individuals to move forward without the burden of their past convictions. However, not all criminal records are eligible for sealing. In this blog post, we will explore the eligibility criteria for sealing records in Massachusetts and shed light on the important factors to consider.

Eligibility Criteria:
To be eligible for sealing records in Massachusetts, individuals must meet specific requirements set forth by Massachusetts state law. Here are the key factors that determine eligibility:

1. Waiting Period:
There is typically a waiting period before a record becomes eligible for sealing. The waiting period varies depending on the type of offense.

  • Juvenile Cases: All sentence elements, and any subsequent court appearances, were completed 3 years prior to the request for sealing.
  • Misdemeanor Cases: All sentence elements, and any subsequent court appearances, were completed 3 years prior to the request for sealing (or, which was a felony when committed, and is presently a misdemeanor).
  • Felony Cases: All sentence elements, and any subsequent court appearances, were completed 7 years prior to the request for sealing. For eligible sex offenses 15 years prior to the request for sealing.

2. Conviction Type:
Only certain types of convictions are eligible for sealing. Non-violent offenses such as drug offenses, property crimes, and some white-collar crimes are often eligible. However, serious offenses such as murder, manslaughter, some sex offenses, and violent crimes are generally not eligible for sealing.

If your case was continued without a finding (“CWOF”), or you received pretrial probation, the case will be shown as open until the CWOF or pretrial probation ends. The case will then show on record as dismissed. Once the case is dismissed, you are able to request sealing without the above-mentioned waiting restrictions.

3. Record-Free Criteria:
During the waiting period, individuals must maintain a record-free status. This means they should not have any new convictions or pending criminal charges. If an individual incurs new convictions during the waiting period, their eligibility for sealing may be affected.

4. Exclusions and Restrictions:
Certain offenses may have specific exclusions or restrictions on sealing eligibility. For instance, some offenses involving firearms, violent crimes against children, or certain repeat offenses may be excluded from the sealing process. It is important to consult legal resources or seek professional advice from a personal injury lawyer to determine if specific offenses fall within the eligible categories.

The Sealing Process:
Once an individual meets the eligibility criteria, they can initiate the sealing process. The process generally involves the following steps:

1. Obtain Necessary Documents:
Gather all relevant documents related to the criminal record, including court records, police reports, and any other supporting documents that may be required.

2. Complete the Petition:
Fill out a Petition to Seal Records form, providing accurate and detailed information about the conviction, charges, and other required information. The form can usually be obtained from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ website.

3. File the Petition:
Submit the completed petition and accompanying documents to the District Court that handled the case or the Commissioner of Probation’s Office.

4. Attend the Hearing (if applicable):
In some cases, a hearing may be scheduled to review the petition. If required, attend the hearing, and present your case before a judge, explaining why the sealing of your records is warranted.

5. Await the Decision:
The court will review the petition and consider any arguments presented during the hearing, if applicable. The judge will then decide regarding the sealing of the criminal records. If the petition is granted, the records will be sealed, limiting public access to them.

Sealing records in Massachusetts can provide individuals with an opportunity to move forward without the stigma and limitations associated with past convictions. By meeting the eligibility criteria and following the correct procedures, individuals may be able to gain a fresh start and pursue various opportunities in their personal and professional lives. It is essential to consult with legal professionals who specialize in criminal law to ensure accurate guidance throughout the sealing process. If you have any question or want assistance sealing your criminal record please call or text (617) 227-8383.