- First Steps
- Sealing Records of Convictions
- Sealing Records of Cases Without Convictions
1. First Steps: Prior to petitioning to seal a record it is recommended but not required that you first consider obtaining the following documents:
For a list of offenses on your Juvenile/Youthful offender record, send a written request to the Office of the Commissioner of Probation. Use the Personal Massachusetts Juvenile Court Activity Record Information Request Form. There is no charge to get a copy of your juvenile record.
Certified Copy of Court Docket
After you receive the records mentioned above, it is often helpful to get a certified copy of the court docket of the offense(s) (particularly if you were fingerprinted on the charge). Certified copy of court dockets are obtained from the Criminal Clerk’s Office where the case(s) originated. This docket information is important to retain in your own personal files should you be required to provide this information in the future.* You can find a list of court telephone numbers and locations on this site at Alphabetical Court List
*Contrary to the Massachusetts Sealing Statute other state and federal jurisdictions may require disclosure of your sealed offenses.
Once you have these documents in hand, you then wish to consider the sealing of your court record(s), you should proceed as indicated below.
The conviction sealing process is governed by MGL c. 276, s. 100A
You may ask the OCP to seal some criminal convictions. The OCP is the Office of the Commissioner of Probation. You can ask to seal a CORI as follows:
- Misdemeanor: 5 years after you were found guilty OR after any jail or prison time. The count starts from the later date.
- Felony: 10 years after you were found guilty OR after any jail or prison time. The count starts from the later date.
- Sex offense: 15 years after you were found guilty OR after any jail or prison time OR after you no longer need to register as a sex offender. The count starts from the later date. Sex offenders that are Level 2 or Level 3 can’t seal their convictions.
Petitions for sealing of records of convictions must be filed with the Office of the Commissioner of Probation, using the Petition to Seal
The following procedures apply to sealing nonconvictions in the District Court (e.g., "Not guilty," "No probable cause," "Dismissed," and "Nol prossed" cases).
Petition to seal. You may file a petition to seal at the end of your case or any time thereafter. Click here to download a petition form that is fillable on your computer - Petition to Seal Record file size 1MB. Please fill out this form completely, sign and date it, and file it with the clerk’s office of the District Court where the criminal case you are seeking to seal originated. You may include in your petition any documents you believe support your reasons for sealing the record in your case. The factors the court may consider in deciding your petition to seal include:
- The particular disadvantage(s) identified by you arising from the availability of the criminal record;
- Evidence of rehabilitation suggesting that you could overcome these disadvantages if the record were sealed;
- Any other evidence that sealing would alleviate the identified disadvantage(s);
- Relevant circumstances to you at the time of the offense that suggest a likelihood of recidivism or of success;
- The passage of time since the offense and since the conclusion of the criminal case; and
- The nature of and reasons for the particular disposition of the criminal case.
See Commonwealth v. Pon, 469 Mass. 296, 316-319 (2014).
Preliminary review of petition. After your petition and any supporting documents have been filed with the clerk’s office, the case file will be given to a District Court judge who will review your petition and any supporting documents. If the judge determines that you have met the preliminary legal standard for sealing the record, you will be notified by mail when a court hearing will be held. If the judge determines that you have not met the preliminary legal standard, the judge can deny the petition without a hearing, and you will be notified of that decision in writing.
Notice and hearing on petition. If the judge decides that your case warrants a hearing, the clerk’s office will schedule a hearing. The clerk’s office will provide advance notice of the hearing to the district attorney’s office and probation department, and a copy of the notice will be posted on a court bulletin board for at least 7 days. You should bring to the hearing any documents or information in addition to those previously provided with your petition that you would like the court to consider. At the hearing, you will be given the opportunity to tell the court why you think there is “good cause” to seal your record and how it outweighs the public’s general right of access to court documents and information. You may be represented by an attorney at the hearing if you so choose.
Written findings and notice to Commissioner of Probation. At the end of the hearing on your petition, the judge may issue a decision right away or may take the case under advisement, in which case you will be notified in writing of the final decision. Click here to view a sample “findings and order” form that will be used by the court - Sample Findings and Order . The clerk’s office will provide a copy of the signed order to you and to the chief probation officer. The chief probation officer will provide a copy of the signed order to the Office of the Commissioner of Probation.
Appeals. If you disagree with the court’s decision on your request to seal a criminal record, you may appeal the decision to the Massachusetts Appeals Court. Further information on how to appeal to the Appeals Court is available on its website, at http://www.mass.gov/courts/court-info/ appealscourt/appeals-court-help-center/appeals-court-faqs.html.
Alternative sealing procedure. For most types of criminal cases, you may obtain sealing without a hearing from the Commissioner of Probation under G.L. c. 276, § 100A if sufficient time has passed without criminal convictions (usually five years for misdemeanors and ten years for felonies). You can obtain the form for this purpose at http://www.mass.gov/courts/docs/probation/sealingpetition.pdf . It is filed with the Commissioner of Probation, not with the court.
For certain criminal case results, you may ask the court to seal the court record(s) under a statute found at Massachusetts General Laws chapter 276, s.100C . In addition, under the terms of Standing Order 1-09 , the Boston Municipal Court Department allows you to file a single petition (a formal written request to the court) to seal three or more dismissals and non-conviction criminal court records from two or more court divisions within the BMCD.
What criminal court records are eligible to be sealed?
You may request the sealing of a criminal court record for the following case results:
- not guilty finding, whether by a court or a jury;
- no bill returned by a grand jury (failure to indict);
- no probable cause finding by a court;
- dismissal without probation entered by a court; OR
- nolle prosequi entered (entry on the record of no further prosecution by the prosecutor).
Where do I file my request to seal?
If you are seeking to seal eligible criminal court record(s) of the Boston Municipal Court Department, and you reside in one of the territories covered by the BMCD court divisions (Brighton, downtown Boston, Charlestown, Dorchester, East Boston, Roxbury, South Boston, and West Roxbury), then you may file your request at the BMCD court division where you live.
If you are seeking to seal eligible criminal court record(s) of the Boston Municipal Court Department but you no longer live in the BMCD territories, then you may file your request at the BMCD court division of the most recent eligible criminal record.
How do I file my request to seal?
You must submit a formal written request asking the court to seal your criminal court record(s). This written request is called a petition. You may obtain the petition form from the Clerk’s Office or the Probation Office of the court where you intend to file your request, or download Petition to Seal Record .
Because court records are generally considered to be public records, your petition must set out enough detailed facts to convince the court to seal your court record(s). If you are seeking to seal multiple criminal court records, please be sure to list on the form all eligible criminal cases with docket numbers from each BMCD court division. After you complete the form, you must submit your papers to the Clerk’s Office of the court where you intend to file your request.
Is there a hearing on my request to seal?
A judge may conduct a preliminary hearing to determine whether you have presented a prima facie case (essentially a first review to see if you have met your initial legal burden) for sealing your court record(s), or a judge may conduct this review based upon your petition. The legal standard for your prima facie case is set forth in the case of Commonwealth v. Pon , 469 Mass. 296 (2014). If you do not present a prima facie case, your request to seal will be denied.
If you present a prima facie case, a final hearing will be scheduled. The Clerk’s Office of the court division conducting the final hearing must post a public notice for at least seven (7) days that sets out the date, time, and location of the final hearing. The Clerk’s Office must also notify the Probation Department of the scheduled final hearing.
If you are seeking to seal multiple court records, and you present a prima facie case, the final hearing must be scheduled no earlier than thirty (30) days but no later than forty-five (45) days from the preliminary hearing or the filing of the petition. You must send a copy of your petition to the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office at least thirty (30) days before the scheduled final hearing. If you fail to do so, and the District Attorney’s Office has not waived the full thirty (30) days notice, then no criminal records from other court divisions will be sealed at the final hearing.
What happens after the final hearing?
After the final hearing, if the judge approves your petition, the judge must make specific findings on the court record giving his/her reason(s) for allowing the sealing.
The Clerk’s Office of the court that approves your petition must give a copy of the order approving your petition to the Probation Department and to each Clerk’s Office with criminal case(s) listed on your petition.
The Chief Probation Officer of the court that approves your petition is responsible for notifying the Office of the Commissioner of Probation of the court’s order and OCP will then seal the record(s).
Can I appeal a judge’s decision on my request to seal?
Yes. If you disagree with a judge’s decision on your request to seal criminal records under the terms of G.L. c. 276, s. 100C , you can appeal to the Massachusetts Appeals Court. The Clerk’s Office will have information on how to appeal, or you should consult with an attorney.
- Your Criminal Record
- What is Not Included in a Criminal Record?
- How to Get a Copy of Your Own Criminal Record
- How to Get a Copy of Someone Else's Criminal Record
- What to Do if There are Mistakes on Your Criminal Record
- How to Seal Your Criminal Record
- Can an Employer See My Criminal Record?
- More Information on Criminal Records
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