Sealing 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.
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 5 years for a misdemeanor and 10 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 Massachusetts does not allow for expunging criminal charges, and therefore, law enforcement agencies will always have access to your criminal record.