Massachusetts law about criminal records

A compilation of laws, regulations, cases and web sources on criminal record law

Best bet

Know Your CORI Rights: Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) Sealing and CORI Reform, Greater Boston Legal Services, 2017.
2017 update of booklet in Question and Answer form.  Covers everything from sealing of records to CORI hiring ordinances, rights when interviewing for jobs, federal court sealing, and much more,  with a set of forms attached.

Massachusetts laws

MGL c.6, s. 167-178B Criminal Offender Record Information Act (CORI)

Massachusetts regulations and executive orders

803 CMR Dept. of Criminal Justice Information Services.
101 CMR 15  Health and Human Services Criminal Record Checks.
110 CMR 18  Department of Children and Families, Criminal Offender Records Check.

Executive Order 495 Regarding the Use and Dissemination of Criminal Offender Record Information by the Executive Department.

Reading a CORI

Accessing your own CORI

How Do I Get a Copy of My CORI? , Mass. Legal Help.
Outlines the process and provides links to forms for requesting a copy of your own CORI.

Request a criminal record self-audit, Dept. of Criminal Justice Information Services.
You can request a self-audit for your criminal offender information (CORI) form. This self-audit shows you all background check inquiries that another person or organization has made for your CORI form, except inquiries made for criminal justice purposes.

Access by the general public

  • Massachusetts Laws
  • Judicial Archives of the State Archives 
    For information prior to 1860. The records for the various county courts (1636-1860) are in the Judicial Archives of the State Archives in Boston. For further assistance you may consult the Finding Aids for the County at the State Archives (Reference Desk) or Contact the Judicial Archives. You should try to find as much information about the case as you can before you contact them. We were told that the person's name, year of the trial, as well as the type of crime is helpful. The archivist suggested that local newspapers from around the time of the trial often provide detailed information.
  • Who Can See My CORI? , Mass. Legal Help
    Lists the types of people and organizations who have access to your criminal record

Additional Resources

Housing and CORI access

  • Criminal Records - Know Your Rights: A Guide to Rights in Employment and Housing, Mass. Attorney General.
    "Because we recognize the importance of access to employment and housing, we have prepared this guide to help educate residents as to their basic rights in these areas."
  • Housing and CORI , Mass. Legal Help
    Explains the access of a housing authority or potential landlord to your criminal history, and how to obtain housing if you have a criminal record. Covers both public and private housing.

Employment and CORI access

  • Consideration of Arrest and Conviction Records in Employment Decisions Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, EEOC.
    Under the guidance, background checks must be job-related and consistent with business necessity. When considering conviction records, employers must look at (1) the nature and gravity of the offense, (2) the amount of time that has passed since the offense, and (3) the nature of the position sought. According to the EEOC, arrest records are never job-related and consistent with business necessity because applicants must be treated as innocent until proven guilty.
  • Criminal Records - Know Your Rights: A Guide to Rights in Employment and Housing, Mass. Attorney General.
    "Because we recognize the importance of access to employment and housing, we have prepared this guide to help educate residents as to their basic rights in these areas."
  • MGL c. 71, s.38R 
    Schools' access to criminal records; employees, contractors, and volunteers; use limited to protection of children
  • MGL c.151B, s.4 (9-1/2)  
    An employer may not "request on its initial written application form criminal record information," unless very specific conditions apply
  • MGL c.15D, s.7-8 Background Checks for Teachers.
    Teachers at schools and day care centers, bus drivers and others will be required to submit fingerprints for background checks.
  • Bellin v. Kelley , 435 Mass. 261, 755 N.E.2d 1274 (2001)
    According to this decision, an investigating police officer did not act wrongly in revealing an employee's CORI history to an employer. The decision further stated that an employer could fire the employee for the employee's failure to submit to a polygraph test. Summary judgments were thus granted for both the police officer and the employer who were among the defendants in the matter.
  • Human Services Jobs and Your CORI , Mass. Legal Help
  • Human services agencies face restrictions on who they may hire, depending on the criminal record involved. Outlines the laws and how to overcome obstacles in working for human services if you have a criminal record.
  • Primer on CORI Reform for Employers ", by Catherine E. Reuben. Mass. Law Review, vol. 95, Issue 1 (June, 2013), pp. 163- 170
  • Good discussion of the 'key provisions of CORI Reform that went into effect on May 4, 2012
  • What Access to Employers Have to CORI? , by Georgia Cristley and Agapi Kouloris, MCLE.
    Covers both employers' access to CORI, and employer obligations regarding CORI.

Access by court

Commonwealth v. Morse , 50 Mass.App.Ct. 582, 740 NE2d 998 (2000)
Appeals Court is entitled to access probation-related documents according to the Criminal Offender Records Information System, regardless of whether or not the records were included within the record of an appeal.

Media access and dissemination

Globe Newspaper Co. v. District Attorney for Middle Dist. , 439 Mass. 374, 788 NE2d 513 (2003)
Newspaper had sought disclosure of docket numbers of criminal cases involving municipal corruption, prosecuted in public judicial proceedings. Among its findings, court held that CORI statute did not prevent disclosure of criminal record information, but newspaper only had a disclosure right to the extent the requested information correlated with information available from court records or other public records.

Sealing, expungement and pardons

Massachusetts Laws

MGL c. 94C, s.34 Unlawful possession of particular controlled substances (provides for sealing of certain records)
MGL c. 94C, s.44 Violations of section 34; acquittal, dismissal or indictment nol prossed; sealing of records
MGL c. 233, s.21 Proof of conviction of crime to affect credibility
MGL c. 276, s.100A Requests to seal files.
MGL c. 276, s.100B Requests to seal delinquency files or records...
MGL c. 276, s.100C Sealing of records or files in certain criminal cases.
MGL c.276, s.100D Access by Criminal Justice Agencies

Court Rules

BMC Standing Order 1-09 (Revised): For the Sealing of Three or More Dismissals and Non-Conviction Criminal Records

Cases

  • Commonwealth v. Pon , 469 Mass. 296 (2014).
    Establishes a new standard and procedure for sealing of a criminal case ending in a dismissal or entry of a nolle prosequi, making it easier to have those records sealed.
  • Chief of Police of Shelburne v. Moyer , 16 Mass.App.Ct. 543, 453 N.E.2d 461 (1983)
    "Statute providing for sealing of record of a person convicted for possession of certain controlled substances does not preclude use by a chief of police...of departmental records which are not public records, maintained by police and other law enforcement agencies."
  • Commonwealth v. Boe , 456 Mass. 337 (2010)
    A judge does not have the authority "to order the Commissioner of Probation (commissioner) to expunge a defendant's record where the criminal complaint was dismissed because its issuance was premised on a mistake." "Massachusetts appellate decisions have construed the unambiguous language of G.L. c. 276, § 100C , as conferring on a judge the authority, in appropriate circumstances, to order sealing, but not expungement, of the probation and court records of dismissed prosecutions."
  • Commonwealth v. Doe , 420 Mass. 142, 648 N.E.2d 1255 (1995)
    Court provides an in-depth discussion regarding the sealing statutes, MGL c. 276 secs. 100A-C. Specifically, it clarifies the phrase "substantial justice," which is used in MGL c.276 sec.100C as follows: "the value of sealing to the defendant [must] clearly outweigh the constitutionally-based value of the record remaining open to society." Id., at 151.
  • Commonwealth v. Gavin G. , 437 Mass. 470 (2002)
    While Juvenile Court judges have the authority to order expungement of police records, they do not have authority to order expungement of probation records.
  • Commonwealth v. Moe , 463 Mass. 370 (2012)
    Relying on Commonwealth v. Boe , court ruled that a judge lacked the authority to expunge a criminal record, even where it was the result of a fraud on the court.
  • Commonwealth v. S.M.F. , 40 Mass.App.Ct. 42, 660 N.E.2d 701 (1996)
    "When statute governing sealing of certain criminal records is applicable, exercise of judicial power of expungement is no longer within authority of judge, but, when statute or other confidentiality statutes are not applicable, trial courts may invoke their inherent power to order expungement of criminal records."

Other Web Sources

Additional Resources

Correcting a criminal record

  • MGL c.6, s.175 
    "Subject to appropriation, the department shall provide assistance to individuals that have requested assistance to correct inaccurate or incomplete criminal offender record information. Such assistance shall include but not be limited to cooperation with appropriate entities to correct, modify or appropriately supplement criminal offender record information that has been determined to be inaccurate or incomplete."
  • Mistakes on CORIs , Mass. Legal Help
    In plain English, describes the process of correcting two types of mistakes: information about you that is incorrect, or information that is not about you

Additional Resources

Last update: October 20, 2017

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