How to Expunge or Seal a Criminal Record
If you’ve been convicted of a crime in Massachusetts, you may be looking to put that conviction behind you by expunging or sealing those criminal records.
The process to expunge and seal records can be very complicated. And as you will see, it can be extremely difficult (if not impossible) to expunge or seal certain records.
Expunging a Massachusetts Criminal Record
Expunging a criminal record generally means that the court will remove and destroy your old criminal record.
So when a record is expunged, all traces of it are destroyed. Future employers and others performing a background check cannot see the record. Typically, the following types of records may be expunged:
- Wrong Name. If you are wrongly named as a criminal defendant, you can take advantage of the expungement process.
- Fraudulent Abuse Prevention Orders. If an abuse prevention order against you was obtained through fraud, you may be able to expunge this record. Keep in mind that you will need to prove the fraud on the court.
- Juvenile Arrest Records. Judges may have the authority to expunge juvenile arrest records in delinquency cases dismissed due to lack of evidence.
That’s it. If your reason to expunge a record does not fall within one of these three categories, you may not be able to expunge your record. So it is not permissible to expunge most criminal, juvenile, and probation records such as those mistakenly brought, lacking probable cause, and vacated. Instead, sealing the record may be the more appropriate step.
Sealing a Massachusetts Criminal Record
Sealing a criminal record generally means that the court segregates your criminal record so that it remains confidential. Unlike expunging a criminal record, sealing a record does not destroy the record and it may still be visible in certain circumstances.
The following are common reasons to seal a record:
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- Adult Criminal Dispositions. You can seek to seal most criminal records if the court supervision, probation or sentence has been terminated for at least 10 years for misdemeanors or 15 years for felonies and there are no new criminal convictions in the past 10 years. (M.G.L. c. 276, § 100A).
- Juvenile Delinquency Dispositions. These records may be sealed if court supervision, probation, commitment, or parole has been terminated for at least 3 years and there have been no new delinquency dispositions or criminal convictions in the past 3 years. (M.G.L. c. 276, § 100B).
- “Not Guilty” or “No Probable Cause” Dispositions. These records are not automatically sealed, but you must first seek a judicial order to seal the record. (M.G.L. c. 276, § 100C).
- Pardoned Offenses. Generally, when the Governor grants a pardon, the Governor will also direct the officers to seal all related records. (M.G.L. c. 127, § 152).
- Erroneous Convictions. Persons wrongly convicted and pardoned based on innocence can seek to seal their criminal records. (M.G.L. c. 258D, § 7).
- First-Offense Drug Possession Charge Other Than Marijuana. If you have no prior drug convictions and successfully completed conditions of continuance or probation, your records may be sealed. (M.G.L. c. 94C, § 34).
- First-Offense Possession of Marijuana. Generally requires that you have no prior convictions and successfully complete any terms of probation. (M.G.L. c. 94C, § 34).
- “Not Guilty,” “Dismissed,” or “NOL Prossed” Disposition of a Drug Possession Charge. A judge may order such records sealed. (M.G.L. c. 94C, § 44).
If you are seeking to expunge or seal a criminal record, you should work with an experienced Massachusetts criminal attorney. The process to expunge and seal records can be very confusing and strict requirements need to be met.