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  • Writer's picturePat Pegan

Sealing your CORI Record in Massachusetts

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Having a criminal record can be a significant obstacle in various aspects of life, from employment opportunities to housing and even personal relationships. However, many individuals may not be aware that in certain circumstances, it is possible to seal their CORI criminal records in Massachusetts. Sealing a criminal record can offer a fresh start and numerous advantages for individuals looking to move beyond their past mistakes. In this article, I will explore the benefits of sealing a criminal record, the steps to take to seal a record, factors the Court takes into account when deciding whether to seal a record, and why someone might consider taking this important step towards rebuilding their life.

Employment Opportunities:

One of the most significant benefits of sealing a criminal record is the increased chance of securing gainful employment. Many employers conduct background checks as a standard part of the hiring process, and a criminal record can be a red flag. By sealing the record, individuals can present themselves to potential employers without the stigma of past mistakes, improving their chances of obtaining the job they desire.

Housing Opportunities:

Similarly, landlords and property management companies often conduct background checks on prospective tenants. A sealed criminal record can make it easier for individuals to secure housing, as landlords may be more willing to rent to someone without a visible criminal history. This can be crucial for those looking to establish stable and secure living arrangements for themselves and their families.

Educational Opportunities:

Many educational institutions also perform background checks as part of their admissions process. Sealing a criminal record can remove potential barriers to pursuing higher education, enabling individuals to advance their knowledge and skills for better career prospects. This can be especially important for those seeking to improve their qualifications or change career paths.

Professional Licensing:

Certain professions require professional licenses, and obtaining or renewing these licenses may be challenging with a criminal record. Sealing the record can enhance the likelihood of receiving approval for professional licenses, allowing individuals to pursue careers that may have been previously out of reach due to past legal issues.

Social Reintegration:

Beyond the practical benefits, sealing a criminal record can contribute to an individual's sense of social acceptance and reintegration. It allows them to move forward without constantly facing judgment and prejudice based on past mistakes, fostering a healthier and more positive community engagement.

How to Seal a CORI Criminal Record in Massachusetts

Sealing Convictions:

If you have a criminal court record in Massachusetts that resulted in a conviction, you may seek to have it sealed under MGL c. 276, § 100C, which can be done by the Massachusetts Probation Service. In Massachusetts, the process to seal convictions in a criminal record, or CORI, involves the following steps:

  1. Determine Eligibility: The first step is to figure out if you are eligible to have your record sealed: For a misdemeanor, you must wait 3 years after you were found guilty or after any jail or prison time, whichever date is later. For a felony, the waiting period is 7 years.

  2. Request your CORI: Before sealing your record, it is advisable to first get a copy of your CORI (Criminal Offender Record Information) to ensure all the information is correct. You can request your CORI using the iCORI online portal. (If requesting your juvenile records, you will need to fill out a Personal Massachusetts Juvenile Court Activity Record Information Request Form and send it to the Massachusetts Probation Service)

  3. Complete the Required Paperwork: The next step is to complete a Petition to Seal form. This form will ask for information about the offense, including the docket number, date of conviction, and the court where the conviction occurred.

  4. Submit the Petition: Once the form is filled out, you can submit it to the court where the conviction occurred. The court will notify you of a hearing date.

  5. Attend the Hearing: At the hearing, you will have the opportunity to present your reasons for wanting your record sealed. The judge will make a decision based on the information presented.

  6. Wait for a Decision: If the judge decides in your favor, the court will order the record sealed. This process can take a few weeks to several months.

Sealing Records Without Convictions in Massachusetts:

Here are the steps to follow in sealing your non-conviction court record:

  1. Identify Eligible Cases: Not every case can be sealed. Eligible cases are those with specific outcomes, including a not guilty finding by a court or a jury, a no bill returned by a grand jury (failure to indict), a no probable cause finding by a court, dismissal without probation entered by a court, or nolle prosequi (no further prosecution by the prosecutor) entered on the record.

  2. Request Sealing from Court: You will need to make a request to the court where the offense originated to seal your case. This involves the submission of a formal Petition to Seal Non-Conviction Records form stating your reasons for the request.

  3. Prepare for the Hearing: Like with convictions, you will have a hearing where you can present your case. It's important to articulate clearly why you believe your record should be sealed.

  4. Wait for a Decision: The judge will review your case and make a decision. If the judge decides in your favor, the court will order your record sealed.

The court takes a variety of factors into account when deciding whether to seal a criminal record. Here are some of the considerations:

  1. Nature of the offense: The court will look at the seriousness of the crime, such as whether it was violent or non-violent, and if it involved minors or vulnerable populations.

  2. Time since the offense: The length of time that has passed since committing the offense and completion of any sentence or probation is an important factor. A longer time without reoffending suggests a lower risk of recidivism.

  3. Signs of Rehabilitation: Evidence of positive change, such as completion of educational programs, steady employment, or participation in substance abuse counseling, can indicate that the individual is less likely to commit new offenses.

  4. Impact on the individual's life: The court may consider how having a public criminal record affects the individual's ability to secure employment, housing, and education, among other things.

  5. Risk to public safety: The court will weigh the potential risk to the general public if the record is sealed. For example, if the individual has a history of violent offenses, the court may be less likely to seal the record.

  6. Relevant circumstances at the time of the offense: Factors such as age, mental health status, or extenuating circumstances at the time of the offense could be considered.

  7. Disposition of the case: The court will review how the case was resolved, such as whether there was a conviction, a plea agreement, or if the charges were dismissed.

I recommend including documentation to support any of the above factors when you submit your petition to the Court. It is also recommended, but not required to file a certified copy of your docket and a copy of your record with your petition.

Once sealed, your record will not show up in a standard CORI check by employers, landlords, or educational institutions, offering you a chance to put past allegations behind and move forward with your life. However, remember that a sealed record is not entirely erased and can be accessed by law enforcement agencies and some employers (such as schools) in certain situations.

If you or someone you know is looking to seal a record in Massachusetts, fill out our contact form, call my office at (978) 744-1220, or text me at (978) 643-0552 for a free case evaluation. I can give you my opinion as to what your best course of action is, and if appropriate, help you through this complex process.

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