What does it mean to get a criminal record sealed?
Sealing your criminal record does not get rid of it, but fewer people can see it. After the records are sealed, most employers, landlords and others will not be able to see the records when they do a CORI check. When you apply for a job after your records are sealed, you can say "I have no record."
Can I get my record sealed?
Most Massachusetts criminal records can be sealed in one or two ways.
Sealing by Mail - Most cases can be sealed by mailing in a form to the Commissioner of Probation after a waiting period. The waiting period is shorter than it was before and is now 5 years for a misdemeanor and 10 years for a felony. Convictions can only be sealed by mail except for a first time drug possession conviction which can be sealed by mail or by a judge.
Sealing Cases in Court - A judge also has the power to seal cases that were dismissed or ended in a “not guilty” finding or a nolle prosequi (the prosecutor dropped the case). There is no waiting period. Judges also can seal a first time drug possession conviction as long as the person did not violate orders of the court connected to probation or what is called a CWOF (a continuance without a finding).
See How do I seal my criminal records?
What can I do if I cannot seal my record for many years?
You might try to get help finding jobs through community programs that help people look for jobs. These programs may know about some CORI friendly employers.
You could work on putting a file together on yourself with letters of recommendation. These letters could be from past employers, probation officers, ministers or clergy, community group leaders, counselors, social workers or treatment people, or anyone whose opinion would be respected. You could then use these letters when you are applying for jobs.
You can try to get help finding a job through people you know through friends or family who might be able to talk an employer into hiring you.
Greater Boston Legal Services adapted from Massachusetts Law Reform Institute