Sealing a criminal record in Massachusetts

Sealing Your Criminal Record

Sweeney and Associates often receives calls regarding whether a person can seal their criminal record. The first thing we advise our clients is to obtain a certified copy of the docket sheet from the court regarding your case and the second is to hire an experienced attorney to represent you in the process. The docket sheet from your case is important because it states the disposition of your case. Depending on how your case was resolved, there are different laws that apply to whether and when you can apply to have your record sealed. Attorney Sabrina Bonanno has extensive expertise in sealing criminal records in Massachusetts and can assist you in ensuring it is done correctly. Call her at (617) 300-0212.

On May 4, 2012, changes to the sealing laws in Massachusetts became effective. This means that individuals previously ineligible to have their records sealed due to time limitations or the type of disposition in their case, i.e. continued without a finding, pretrial probation, dismissal, or plea or conviction of guilty, may now be eligible to request that either the court or the Commissioner of Probation seal their record.

Section 131 of c. 256 amended G.L. c. 276, § 100C to allow judges to seal cases that were continued without a finding upon dismissal of the case. Dismissal of the case occurs upon an individual’s completion of their probationary term. If your case was continued without a finding, if you were found not guilty, if the District Attorney’s Office entered a nolle prosequi, or your case was dismissed, then on the day or any day thereafter you can request that your record be sealed by filing the appropriate documents. In these instances, an experienced attorney from our office would file a Motion to Seal with the court along with an Affidavit explaining why your record needs to be sealed. It is important to note, that in order to seal your record, we have to show that you would suffer a specific harm if the record is not sealed. The benefit of hiring Sweeney & Associates is that we have successfully sealed client’s records and are very familiar with not only the process of preparing and filing the appropriate documents but also of what information we need to provide to the court so that the court will allow your record to be sealed.

The process for sealing your record begins with filing the motion and affidavit. Once this is done, there will be a preliminary hearing where a judge will determine whether we have established a prima facie case to seal your record. While you can waive your presence at this hearing, we always recommend that we attend the hearing to answer any questions the judge may have and to make sure the judge puts a face with the name on the paperwork.

Once we establish a prima face case, then there will be a formal hearing. The formal hearing takes place at least 7 days after we have given public notice that you are requesting your record be sealed. Also, the Commonwealth, probation department, any other interested party (for ex. a victim in the case), is allowed to argue for or against you being allowed to seal your record. If the judge finds in our favor, then your record will be sealed.

The sealing laws have also changed for those who plead guilty or were convicted of a misdemeanor or felony. Sections 128 and 129 of c. 256 made several amendments to G.L. c. 276, § 100A. If you were convicted of a misdemeanor, you can request your record be sealed after 5 years. Previously you had to wait 10 years. If you plead guilty or were convicted of a felony, you can request your record be sealed after 10 years. Previously you had to wait 15 years. The calculation begins to run when you are released from incarceration or if you were not incarcerated then upon the disposition of your case. Generally, however, if the conviction was for a sex offense, you still have to wait 15 years to request your record be sealed. Based on your classification, you may be ineligible to request your record be sealed. Under this law, we submit an application directly to the Commissioner of Probation to seal your record instead of going before a judge.

If you are interested in sealing your record or want to find out if you are eligible to seal your record call Sweeney and Associates at (617) 300-0212 today and speak with a highly reputable and experienced attorney or email us at

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