Being charged with a criminal offense, or being convicted of a crime, can have a serious effect on your life and future opportunities. In fact, even if you are not convicted of the crime–just arrested and charged–your arrest record alone may limit your ability to secure certain employment positions, housing, or other opportunities.
Fortunately, for those who have previously faced certain criminal charges, expungement may be an option. Consider the following about expungement in Massachusetts:
What Is Expungement?
Expungement is the process of removing a criminal record and erasing it or destroying it. Also called sealing of records, once a person’s criminal record is expunged, it is as if the incident never occurred. Indeed, the incident will not be viewable on the public record, will not be accessible to potential employers or parties conducting a criminal background check. Further, once the record has been expunged, the affected individual has no duty to report the incident when asked by an employer or another party.
What Types of Crimes Are Eligible for Expungement?
Both certain criminal convictions and non-convictions can be sealed in Massachusetts. Further, both misdemeanor and felony convictions can be sealed. Previously, if you were seeking expungement of a misdemeanor offense, you must have demonstrated five years of law-abiding conduct. For a felony offense, the time requirement was 10 years. As of October 2018, those time requirements have been diminished to three years and seven years, respectively. As a note, sexual offenses are subject to a 15-year eligibility period.
Some crimes cannot be sealed. To be sure, crimes committed by public employees, crimes against public justice, and firearm offenses are not eligible for sealing.
The Process for Seeking Expungement
If you want to seal your criminal record, it is strongly recommended that you work with a skilled criminal defense attorney who is familiar with expungement law. An attorney can guide you through the process, including filling out and filing the Petition to Seal Conviction Records form or the Petition to Seal Non-Conviction Records form. In addition to either of these documents, depending upon the circumstances of your case, you must also submit evidence that supports your belief that your records should be sealed. Mass.gov explains that factors that the court will consider when deciding whether or not to seal your case include:
- Whether or not you suffer any disadvantages as a result of the availability of your criminal record;
- Evidence suggesting that these disadvantages would be overcome if your record was to be sealed;
- The relevant circumstances that pertain to the chances of you committing another criminal offense; and
- The reasons for the “particular disposition of the criminal case.”
Your attorney can also assist you in providing the court with a copy of your criminal record, which is not required, but is suggested.
Contact an Attorney to Learn More
If you are facing criminal charges, the best thing that you can do is to work with a skilled criminal attorney who can defend you against charges, potentially resulting in charges being dropped or reduced, or a verdict of innocence. If you have already been convicted and want to learn more about expungement, reaching out to a qualified attorney is a must.
To schedule a consultation with The Law Office of Paul R. Moraski to discuss your criminal case, please call 978-397-0011 today. Our attorney will work hard for you.