Sealing is the process of sealing a criminal record. For example, let’s say you got an OUI five years ago. That offense may come back to bite you when you apply for a job, school or housing. If, however, you have the OUI conviction or CWOF sealed, the offense won’t show up in an employment or housing background check. But not all crimes can be sealed, and there are different timelines for different crimes. Read on for more information about how to seal a past criminal conviction, and how long the process will take.
- Misdemeanor offenses: If you were convicted of a misdemeanor offense, such as a first OUI, petty theft, or simple assault, you will be eligible to have the record sealed as soon as five years have passed. This waiting period doesn’t begin until your case has ended, including any time behind bars. In order to qualify, your record must have remained clean since the offense in question. A Boston defense attorney can help you get your record sealed if you have been convicted of a misdemeanor offense.
- Felony offenses: If you were convicted of a felony offense, 10 years must have passed before you are eligible for sealing. Again, this includes any period of incarceration, and you cannot have been convicted of another crime during that time period.
- If your case was dismissed, after a CWOF (Continuation without a finding) or just straight dismissed, you are eligible to seal your record immediately following the dismissal, and perhaps even sooner. This is not the case with a guilty finding, but only if your case was dismissed or you were found not guilty.
- Sex crimes: If you have been convicted of a sex crime, you must wait 15 years to petition for a sealing of this charge. However, if you have been classified as a level 2 or 3 offender, your record can never be sealed.
- Crimes that are no longer considered crimes: If you were convicted of a crime that has since been decriminalized, such as marijuana possession, your record can be sealed immediately. A MA defense attorney can help you understand sealing and whether you are eligible to have a criminal record sealed.
In most cases, sealing your record from public view and allows you to answer “No” when asked if you were ever arrested, charged or convicted of a criminal offense. In addition to level 2 and 3 sex crimes, there are other crimes that are never eligible for sealing in MA. These include crimes related to the sale or possession of firearms.
Although job and housing applications are the first things that come to mind when one thinks of the disadvantages of having a criminal record, a past conviction can negatively affect many other areas of your life as well. A criminal record may impact your ability to get a loan, certain licenses, insurance, federal assistance, and it may prevent you from owning a firearm, adopting a child, and even volunteering.
Limits of Sealing Your Record
There are certain circumstances under which a sealed criminal record is still accessible. These include:
- Subsequent arrests: If you are charged with another crime, whether misdemeanor or felony, the prosecutor needs to know whether you have a prior criminal record. In this situation, your sealed record will likely be accessible.
- Certain government jobs: Disclosure of sealed records is allowed in certain government jobs, when the public good is dependent on this information. For example, records may be viewed when an individual is applying for a position in juvenile court, or to review license applications for firearms.
- “Sensitive” occupations: Employment in certain professions requires a more extensive background check. If you are applying to be a school teacher, corrections officer, or to work in law enforcement, your prospective employer may be able to access a sealed record. This may also apply to other vocations, such as lawyers, pharmacists, and those working in public office.
Altman & Altman, LLP – Boston’s Top Criminal Defense Law Firm
If you have been charged with any type of crime, the skilled legal team at Altman & Altman, LLP can help. We have been protecting the rights of individuals charged with criminal offenses for more than 50 years. It is our goal to keep you out of jail, and to keep your record clean. If you are interested in having a prior criminal conviction expunged, contact Altman & Altman, LLP today for a free and confidential consultation about your case.