Is a Criminal Arrest on Your Record Forever?

Is a Criminal Arrest on Your Record Forever?

If you were ever arrested and charged with a crime, you might believe that these events from years ago won’t come back to haunt you, but that may not be the case. Past arrests, even if they did not result in convictions or formal charges, remain available on your criminal offender record information (CORI) and visible unless you actively seek to have them removed. This can have lasting impacts on your life, ranging from lost employment opportunities to an inability to receive financial aid. The only way to ensure that a record, however minor, does not affect you indefinitely is to request that your files be sealed or expunged by the office of the commissioner of probation.

What is the difference between expunging and sealing a record?

Sealing a record removes it from public view, preventing most people from accessing the information. This means that your record would not show up during most employment or property rental background checks. Some agencies will still be able to see criminal records, however, including law enforcement agencies and any agency requiring background checks for working with or caring for children, such as adoption agencies, schools, or hospitals.

Expungement means that your arrest record is officially removed from the files of the arresting authority (i.e. the police). Essentially, having a record expunged makes it as if the arrest or conviction never occurred. In Massachusetts, expungement is only available in rare situations such as identify fraud or delinquency cases that were dismissed due to insufficient evidence.

What kinds of offenses can be sealed?

Record sealing is permitted for many kinds of offenses, but they have different waiting periods. Any case that was dismissed or resulted in an acquittal may be sealed immediately, and most first-time drug possession convictions can also be sealed right away. A dismissal after a probationary period may be sealed only after the probation was successfully completed. Misdemeanor convictions may be sealed only after a five-year waiting period, felonies have a ten-year wait, and juvenile offenses may be sealed after three years, however the timeline starts over if an offender is convicted of another offense within the three-year time frame. Certain offenses can never be sealed if they resulted in convictions, including:

· Firearms offenses like selling ammunition or guns without a license;
· “Crimes against the Public” such as resisting arrest, perjury, or witness intimidation;
· For any Level 2 or 3 sex offender, convictions for certain sex offenses may never be sealed; once the individual is no longer required to register as a sex offender, other types of cases may be sealed.

Do I still have to disclose arrests and convictions on a job application if my record is expunged?

No. If you successfully seal your record, your arrests and convictions are no longer part of the public record and you no longer need to disclose them.

How do I know whether my records are eligible?

The rules on what offenses are eligible for sealing can be complicated to understand, and Massachusetts has some of the strictest rules in the country. With over 20 years of experience in criminal defense, New Bedford Attorney Paul Santos can help can help you secure a better future by clearing your criminal record. Call 508-996-0941 or contact me online today.

Paul Santos


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