Expunging or Sealing Adult Criminal Records in Massachusetts

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In Massachusetts, your criminal record may be sealed under the circumstances described below.  If your record is eligible for sealing, it will be hidden from public view. In most cases, you will not have to disclose that you were arrested or convicted of a crime.

Criminal Records That Can Be Sealed in Massachusetts

Misdemeanor offenses. If it has been at least five years since your case has ended -- including any period of incarceration or custody -- you may petition to have your criminal record sealed. To qualify, you must not have been found guilty of a crime during the previous five years, except for minor motor vehicle offenses. (This law is effective May 4, 2012. Until that date, the waiting period is ten years.)

Felony offenses. If it has been at least ten years since your case has ended -- including any period of incarceration or custody -- you may petition to have your criminal record sealed. To qualify, you must not have been found guilty of a crime during the previous ten years, except for minor motor vehicle offenses. (This law is effective May 4, 2012. Until that date, the waiting period is fifteen years.)

Sex offenses. For sexual crimes, the waiting period for sealing your record is fifteen years from the time your case ends -- including completion of probation or any period of incarceration -- or for as long as you are required to register as a sex offender. If you have ever been classified as a Level 2 or 3 sex offender, however, your record is not eligible for sealing. (This law is effective May 4, 2012. Until that date, eligibility is determined under the laws described above.)

Offenses no longer considered criminal. If the offense for which you were convicted has been decriminalized, your record may be sealed immediately. (This law is effective May 4, 2012.)

Offenses not eligible for sealing. Under Massachusetts law, certain records are not eligible for sealing, including many offenses pertaining to the sale or possession of firearms and certain crimes of public officials. 

To learn more about sealing your criminal record in Massachusetts, carefully read Chapter 276, Section 100A, of the Massachusetts General Laws.

How to File

You can find a petition to seal criminal records by visiting the website of the Massachusetts Courts. Be aware, however, that the laws pertaining to sealing records in Massachusetts have been changing. Make sure you are using the most recent version of the form.

Getting Legal Help

Cleaning up a criminal record can be complicated. To learn more about expunging criminal records in Massachusetts -- and to discuss your personal circumstances -- you should contact a qualified criminal law attorney. A good lawyer can help you each step of the way.

by: , J.D.

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