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Sealing or expunging criminal records in Massachusetts

There are many outcomes of an OUI in Massachusetts, one of which is a mark on a person's criminal record. A criminal record is typically public and can be accessed by a landlord, an employer or a university when someone has filled out an application that requires a background check. This may not seem fair. After all, once someone pays the fines and other penalties, why should the consequences continue?

According to Mass.gov, a person may be able to seal his or her criminal record so that the public can't see it. Not only that, it becomes legal to claim that he or she does not have a criminal record on certain types of applications, such as for employment. 

If there is no conviction, then a person can go ahead and request that the court seal the record. The following results of the case are eligible for sealing:

  • The court finds the defendant not guilty
  • A grand jury does not indict the defendant
  • The court finds that there is no probable cause
  • The court dismisses the case without probation
  • The prosecutor decides not to prosecute

After a conviction, however, there is a waiting period before the court will consider a request to seal a criminal record. If a person serves prison or jail time after a misdemeanor conviction, the waiting period is five years from the end of that sentence; if there is no sentence, then it is five years from the guilty verdict. For a felony, the same rule applies, but the waiting period is 10 years.

The Collateral Consequences Resource Center notes that sealed records are hidden from the public, but the courts or law enforcement may still view them. Beginning Oct. 1, 2018, a person may be able to have a record expunged. An expungement destroys or erases the record; it is no longer in existence.

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