Sealing Criminal Records in Massachusetts Differs From Expunging Criminal Records and the Decision on How to Proceed With These Matters is Critical
Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 276 Section 100C provides for Sealing Criminal Records in Massachusetts. The law states that anyone who has been acquitted by a judge or a jury or charged with a crime that was no billed by a grand jury or no probable cause was found by a judge warrants the sealing of such record. In such cases sealing is done automatically unless the accused makes clear in writing that he or she does not want the case sealed. If a case has been dismissed or if the district attorney files a nolle prosequi then a judge can order the matter sealed if substantial justice would best be served by sealing. If a case is sealed the accused can properly state that he or she has no criminal record.
Here are some things you should know about sealed records in Massachusetts. They are different from pardons. Someone who is pardoned still has an unsealed record in Massachusetts. Sealed records can in some cases be accessed by law enforcement entities. Sealed records are, in and of themselves records in some context. To many, particularly people involved in the Massachusetts Criminal Legal System, a sealed record suggests that the accused at one time faced a Massachusetts Sex Crime charge. Sealed Records in Massachusetts also signify, correctly or incorrectly that there was some wrongdoing on behalf of the accused. In other words, when records are sealed in Massachusetts they are still in existence, just unavailable to the public.
There is however an Expungement Law in Massachusetts. Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 6 Section 171 has a provision that requires the criminal history systems board to enact rules that assure the purging of records once ordered by a judge. Under Massachusetts common law courts can exercise a power to expunge records of criminal charges. To prevail on a Motion to Expunge in Massachusetts the applicant must show that the records sought to be expunged have minimal or no value to law enforcement. The action to expunge is brought against the keeper of the records for the entity holding the materials about which expungement is sought.
People who have had involvement with the criminal legal system in Massachusetts and are considering Sealing or Expungement should contact a Massachusetts Criminal Lawyer. The manner in which you proceed depends on several factors. What was your involvement in the activity? How was the case resolved? How is that impacting your life now? What do you do for work? What were the charges that you faced? How old were you when the incident occurred? Were you represented by a lawyer or did you represent yourself? Was the underlying matter a Drug Crime, a Sex Crime, a Violent Crime?