Sealing Criminal Records in Boston / Petitions to Seal in MA
Having a criminal record can hang over your head for a lifetime. It can hinder your ability to get a job, find housing, and obtain financial aid.
The good news is that, depending on the circumstances of your case, you may be able to seal your criminal record. If you can do so, it is almost always a good idea to have your record sealed. Once your record is sealed, most employers, landlords, and others who run a background check on you will get this response: “no criminal record.” You are legally allowed to assert on employment applications that you have never been charged or arrested.
We have helped countless people seal their records so that they can move on with their lives. For assistance sealing your record, call us today for a free phone consultation at 781-797-0555.
How do I seal my record?
Generally, there are two ways to seal a criminal record in Massachusetts:
Sealing by Mail – Many cases can be sealed by mailing a form to the Commissioner of Probation after a waiting period* of 3 years for a misdemeanor and 7 years for a felony. Convictions can only be sealed by mail, with the exception of first time drug possession, which can also be sealed by a judge.
Sealing in Court – A judge has the legal authority to seal cases that were dismissed or ended in a “not guilty” finding. There is no waiting period required. Generally, judges can also seal a first time drug possession conviction.
*The waiting period begins at the “final disposition” of the case – when the case ended in court or when you were released from prison, whichever occurred last. If you served a period of probation, the waiting period starts when your probation starts.
Not every case can be sealed, and it is important to discuss your options with an experienced criminal defense attorney. It is also crucial to note that in most cases, law enforcement agencies and the courts will still have access to your criminal record. For most people, it will prevent their employers and prospective employers from seeing the record. And despite a prevailing myth that a sealed record will say “sealed” on a background check, a CORI (Criminal Offender Record Information) check will instead state that you have no record. That said, there are different levels of access, depending on the person or entity requesting the background check.
If you have a criminal record that is holding you back, we may be able to help. We can discuss the pros and cons, and help you determine if sealing a record will achieve your goal. Sometimes there are other options that better fit your situation, such as filing a motion for new trial, or a motion to vacate a guilty plea. For example, if you are seeking a license to carry firearms, sealing your record won’t help; instead, we have helped people reopen and get rid of old convictions for that purpose. Also keep in mind that an FBI background check cannot be sealed, but can sometimes be updated. Again, every situation is unique, so call us for a free phone consultation today.