- 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). See
A Guide to Public Access, Sealing & Expungement of District Court Records file size 1MB for more information.
Written motion. The defendant must file a motion to seal, at the end of the case or at any time thereafter, setting out detailed facts that would justify overriding the presumption of public access to court records. See Globe Newspaper Co. v. Pokaski, 868 F.2d 497 (1st Cir. 1989); Commonwealth v. Doe, 420 Mass. 142 (1995).
- Form: Motion to Seal Record
Informal hearing to demonstrate prima facie case for sealing. A judge will consider the motion to seal at a hearing to determine whether the defendant has made out a prima facie case for sealing. If the defendant fails to make such a showing, the motion will be denied. The informal hearing will be ex parte (without prior notice to the other side), in court, and on the record. The defendant may waive this hearing in writing.
Notice and formal hearing. If the defendant makes out a prima facie case for sealing, a formal hearing will be held. The clerk-magistrate'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.
- Written findings. If the judge allows the motion to seal after a formal hearing, the judge will make specific findings on the record.
Notice to the Commissioner of Probation. If the judge allows the motion to seal, the petition form used to notify the Office of the Commissioner of Probation of the court's order will be filled out and signed by the judge. This petition may be filed by the defendant at the same time as the motion to seal. This is a multi-part document not available online. You may get a copy of the form from the clerk's office.
Whenever possible, consult with an attorney.
You have a right to say “I have no record” when your records are sealed.
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 prosecui 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 either a petition or a motion. You may obtain the petition or motion form from the Clerk’s Office or the Probation Office of the court where you intend to file your request.
Because court records are generally considered to be public records, your petition or motion 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 will 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). The legal standard for your prima facie case is set forth in the case of Commonwealth v. Doe, 420 Mass. 142 (1995). 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. You must send a copy of your petition or motion 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 or motion, 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 or motion must give a copy of the order approving your petition or motion to the Probation Department and to each Clerk’s Office with criminal case(s) listed on your petition or motion.
The Chief Probation Officer of the court that approves your petition or motion is responsible for notifying the Office of the Commissioner of Probation of the court’s order.
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 deadlines to appeal are usually very short so you must act quickly. 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