Samuel Goldberg has been a Massachusetts criminal defense attorney for 20 years. Prior to that, he was a New York state prosecutor. He has published various articles regarding the practice of criminal law and frequently provides legal analysis on radio and television, appearing on outlets such as the Fox News Channel, Court TV, MSNBC and The BBC Network. To speak to Sam about a criminal matter call (617) 492 3000.

Articles Posted in Expungement/Sealing Record

If you have been convicted of a crime, your conviction is a public record. What does that mean? Well, for starters, potential employers and landlords can do a criminal background search, and they may deny you employment or housing when they see the conviction. What many people don’t know, however, is that anyone can walk into a court clerk’s office and perform a criminal record search on a particular individual.

And it’s getting even easier than that. In the past, a person had to physically walk into a court clerk’s office to perform such a search. Since the birth of the internet, however, any average Joe can use the services of an online criminal background search firm while sitting in his pajamas sipping coffee. Private, for-profit companies gather conviction records from myriad sources, then use them to create databases which can be accessed by any paying customer with a curiosity about someone’s record, or lack thereof.

So, What Shows Up?

If someone performs a criminal background check on an individual, the following information may be revealed:

  • Warrants
  • Arrests
  • Misdemeanor convictions
  • Felony convictions
  • Court records, including judgments, dockets, and orders
  • Sex offenses
  • Records of incarceration

Thanks to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), civil suits and arrests will not show up in a criminal background search after the passing of seven years. However, criminal convictions may remain on the report indefinitely. A MA criminal defense attorney can help you protect your rights if you’ve been charged with a  crime.

Can My Record be Sealed?

The only way a criminal record can be hidden from public view is through the process of expungement, also known as sealing. When a judge “seals” a criminal conviction, not only is the record no longer public, the individual can answer “No” on any application asking if they have ever been convicted of a crime. That being said, certain individuals and organizations – such as prosecutors and law enforcement agencies – can still view expunged records. And expungement isn’t always an option.

In order to have your record sealed, you and your offense must meet certain requirements. In most cases, it must have been your first offense, a relatively minor offense, you must have completed your sentence, and a period of time must have passed since completing your sentence. To qualify for expungement, your case must meet one of the requirements below:

  • Your case was dismissed (you were found not guilty, or the case ended without a conviction).
  • Five years have passed since you finished serving your sentence for a misdemeanor offense, and you have not re-offended.
  • 10 years have passed since you finished serving your sentence for a felony offense, you have not re-offended, and your conviction was not for “crimes” against the public, violations of the State Ethics Act, certain sex offenses, and certain firearms offenses
  • Your conviction was for first-offense misdemeanor drug possession (at the judge’s discretion, these cases may be sealed immediately)

A Boston defense lawyer can help you determine if you qualify for expungement. Continue reading

Having a criminal record can make life extremely difficult. Getting the job or house you want with a felony, or even a misdemeanor, can be impossible. When a person is facing criminal charges, he or she may plead guilty to a lesser charge simply to get the uncomfortable process over with. This makes sense, criminal prosecution is rarely a pleasant process. But considering the consequences of having a record, doing everything possible to avoid one is in your best interest.

Felonies vs. Misdemeanors

In Massachusetts, a felony conviction will likely result in difficulty finding future employment and in the inability to vote. Certain jobs, including some in the state and federal sectors, will be completely off-limits to someone with a felony conviction. And if you’ve been convicted of a sex offense, forget about working in the school system. School districts simply do not hire people with sex offense-related convictions. For these reasons, among others, it is crucial that you hire experienced legal counsel if you are facing felony charges. A skilled MA criminal defense attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you have been charged with a felony offense.

Although not as serious as felonies, misdemeanors can still have a negative impact on an individual’s ability to obtain housing and employment, and can even impact auto insurance rates and credit score. Young people are most vulnerable to the consequences of a criminal record. A conviction can effectively ruin a young person’s life. When a 22-year-old college student receives a felony conviction for a hazing-related offense, for example, his life will likely take an entirely different course. And this change in course is rarely a good one. For non-U.S. citizens, any type of conviction can be devastating; even a misdemeanor can lead to deportation or denial of re-entry into the U.S.

Public Disclosure

Keep in mind that criminal convictions are public information. The harm to your reputation and rights can be the most difficult pill to swallow. Someone with a felony conviction will never be able to possess a firearm or even to serve on a jury. If you were convicted of a sex crime in MA, you will also need to register as a sex offender. A Boston criminal defense attorney can help you protect your rights and reputation if you’ve been charged with a felony or misdemeanor offense.

What is Expungement?

The process of expungement basically means having a criminal record sealed from public view. In Massachusetts, individuals convicted of certain crimes can apply to have their records sealed after the passing of a certain amount of time. For misdemeanor offenses, the waiting period is five years, and it’s 10 years for felony convictions. Some crimes, including sex offenses and firearms offenses can never be sealed. Although expungement seals your record of public view, there are certain Continue reading

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.

A misdemeanor is a minor criminal offense, but it’s a criminal offense nonetheless. As such, a misdemeanor conviction may result in hefty fines, jail time, and a criminal record. Facing a misdemeanor charge can be scary, especially when it originates somewhere other than your home state. If you were charged in MA but you live in another state, what do you do? Read on for more information about what to do, and what not t to do if you are facing an out of state misdemeanor charge.

Ignorance is Not Bliss

For starters, don’t ignore the charge. The criminal justice system will catch up with you eventually, and ignoring a criminal charge is the best way to ensure a conviction and additional charges. A MA criminal defense attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been arrested in MA but live out of state.

Penalties for Misdemeanor Offenses

Misdemeanors are not as serious as felonies, but that doesn’t mean you won’t face serious penalties. Misdemeanors includes crimes such as simple assault, petty theft, and some OUI offenses. If you are being charged with a misdemeanor offense, you may be facing the following penalties:

  • Jail You can face up to one year in jail for a misdemeanor offense.
  • Misdemeanor crimes carry fines from $50 all the way to $2,000 or more.
  • If your crime involved property damage or resulted in a loss of money for the victim, you may have to pay restitution to cover those damages.
  • Some misdemeanors include probation as an alternative, or in addition to, jail time.

Learn from Tom’s Mistake

Consider the following scenario, for example: Tom gets arrested for simple assault while on vacation in Boston. He was drunk and got into a bar fight. Tom spends the night in jail, and is released the next day. Tom is scheduled to appear in court in Boston, but he heads home to Oregon and vows never to return to the Bay State.

Not so fast, Tom. If you try to evade out of state charges, you’ll likely face additional penalties in the future. Even if you never return to MA, a simple traffic stop in your home state could reveal an out of state warrant, unleashing a snowball of consequences that generally far outweighs the penalties of your original offense.

You Need a Local Lawyer

But there are legal steps you can take to reduce or eliminate the cost of travel if you live far from the state in which you were arrested. For starters, you should hire a local lawyer. Depending on the circumstances of your case, you may be able to avoid returning to the state where you were arrested. Courts often allow the defense attorney to appear on behalf of the defendant. A skilled Boston defense attorney can help you protect your rights and reduce your travel expenses if you’ve been charged for an out of state misdemeanor in MA. Continue reading

If you’ve been convicted of a criminal offense in the past, you have a criminal record. It goes without saying that having a criminal record isn’t ideal; it can negatively impact your ability to get a job, housing, and even student loans for years into the future. Depending on the circumstances of your case, you may be able to seal your record in MA. Read on for more information about how to seal a criminal record, what that means, and if you qualify.

In 2012, the Criminal Offender Record (CORI) reform went into effect in MA. This is especially good news for people who were charged with a crime, but for whom the charges were dismissed. If this is you, CORI greatly improves your chances of getting your record sealed. Whether your charges were dismissed from the start, or after probation, you may qualify.

If you were convicted of the charge, you’re not out of luck yet. However, convictions typically require the passage of a certain amount of time before you are eligible to petition the court to seal your record. If the conviction was for a felony, CORI requires a full 15 years to pass before your record is eligible to be sealed. But there are some exceptions to that rule. In MA, the judge has the authority to seal a felony record before the 15 years are up. The judge will take into account any hardships you may be experiencing as a result of the open record. This is where having a skilled Boston defense attorney is essential.

What Types of Criminal Records Can be Sealed in MA?

Many factors come into play when a judge is determining whether or not your record can be sealed. These include the particulars of your offense, and past criminal history, among other factors. However, some of the criminal charges that may be eligible include:

  • Assault
  • Possession of drugs
  • Property crimes, such as burglary and arson
  • Weapons charges
  • Fraud

A MA defense attorney can review your criminal record to ensure that the information within is accurate before petitioning the court to seal the record. Sealing a criminal record is a complex process that requires the help of legal counsel with extensive experience in this particular area of the law.

What Does Sealing a Record Actually Do?

Sealing does not mean erasing. The record still exists, but it isn’t accessible by most people, employers, or entities. Even better, when you apply for a job, housing, or a loan, you can legally answer that you have never been convicted of a crime. You can also state that you’ve never been charged or arrested for a crime. Once your record is sealed, the MA sealing statute allows you to legally answer in this way. Unfortunately, there are a few employers that are still permitted to access sealed records. These are:

  • The Department of Early Education and Care
  • The Department of Children and Families
  • The Department of Youth Services
  • Police and probation agencies
  • Courts
  • Prosecutors’ offices

Continue reading

People make mistakes. If a past mistake resulted in a criminal record, you may be worried about how it might affect your chances of getting a certain job. Some fields, especially those that involve working with children, are especially thorough when it comes to background checks. If you are considering becoming a teacher, it would be wise to do some research on how a past criminal conviction may impact your chances. The information below may provide answers to some of your questions. If you still have questions after reading this post, a Boston defense lawyer can help you determine how to move forward.

Which Crimes are Showstoppers?

Here’s the thing – it’s not usually the criminal record itself that prevents you from getting a job, but the nature of the underlying offense. A misdemeanor offense from years ago can likely be explained away, but a sexual abuse conviction, for example, is another story. Local school districts hire teachers, and those districts must adhere to state regulations when it comes to teacher certification and hiring guidelines. With regard to Massachusetts, the offenses below will either seriously impact your ability to become a teacher in this state, or they will disqualify you altogether:

  • First and second-degree felonies: These are generally serious crimes, and school districts will consider them seriously. If the felony occurred a long time ago, and it wasn’t of a sexual or violent nature, it is possible that a solid explanation can pave the way to a teaching job. But you may have an uphill climb, to say the least.
  • Sexual Offenses: These are likely to be showstoppers. Teachers deal with children on a daily basis, and a person who has a history of sexual offenses may not be the best candidate for this type of position. Even if your crime wasn’t against a child, a sexual offense will almost certainly disqualify you from becoming a teacher in MA.
  • Offenses that endangered others: If you have been convicted of an endangerment offense (anything that put the safety or lives of others in jeopardy), you will probably not being writing your name on a blackboard in MA anytime soon.
  • Drug offenses: Here, again, the underlying offense is the determining factor. If you were busted smoking pot 10 years ago, you’ll probably be off the hook if your record has remained clear since. But if you were convicted of heroin possession with the intent to sell three years ago, chances are you’re not going to be called back for a second interview.

There are ways to get a teaching position with a criminal record. And there are ways to get certain past convictions expunged (cleared from your record entirely). A MA criminal defense attorney can help you determine if expungement is an option for you.

The following statement was taken from the website of the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education:

“A criminal record will not automatically disqualify an individual from licensure

by the Department. Rather, the Department will make determinations of an

individual’s suitability based on CORI checks conducted consistent with this

policy, with licensure standards adopted by the Board of Education, and with any

other applicable law or regulations.” Continue reading

In the state of Massachusetts, a restraining order is also known as a 209A order. If a restraining order has been issued against you and you violate any of its terms and conditions, you have committed a criminal offense. If convicted, you could face up to two-and-a-half years in jail and a fine of up to five thousand dollars. The best advice? Don’t violate a 209A order. But if you’ve made a mistake, or an angry ex has embellished the truth in order to punish you, it’s in your best interest to contact a skilled criminal defense attorney without delay.  The law offices of Altman and Altman have been representing individuals charged with violating restraining orders for over 50 years, our experienced criminal defense team is just a phone call away. Our phones are answered 24/7.

If convicted of violating a 209A order, you may be required to complete a “batterer’s program” in addition to jail time and fines. Judges take violations very seriously, and failure to abide by the terms of a 209A order can result in devastating consequences. Four elements must exist in order to convict someone of violating a restraining order.

So, what constitutes a violation? Let’s take a look:

Background checks are widely used by employers during the pre-employment screening process in Massachusetts and across the country. Depending on the type of background check used, it can show everything from the level of education you’ve attained to whether or not you make your car payment on time each month. Information about credit history, however, is actually declining as a component of background checks, due to controversy. Lots of folks think it’s unfair to base an individual’s employability on his ability, or lack thereof, to make his mortgage payment back in 2011. Criminal background checks, on the other hand, are becoming more prevalent, and thorough, every year. Read on for more information about pre-employment background checks and how they may affect you. If you still have questions, contact a MA defense lawyer today.

Driving History

These reports are especially important to employers when hiring for a position that requires the applicant to drive a company vehicle. A driver history report uncovers whether or not the applicant can legally drive, if he or she has a history of traffic-related drug or alcohol offenses, and if the applicant can be insured to operate a company vehicle. A report from the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) shows vehicle-related convictions (such as OUI), actions taken by the DMV (such as license suspension due to excessive points), and past and current addresses used by the applicant.

Criminal Background Checks

This type of background check is commonly used by employers, a fact which shouldn’t be a surprise. For starters, adult convictions are almost always public record, meaning the information can be obtained by anyone with the desire to do the research. If you’ve been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor offense, you’d better believe it’s going to show up in a pre-employment background check. If you’ve been charged with any type of crime, contact a Boston defense lawyer today.

Infractions

What’s an infraction? Technically speaking, an infraction is not a crime. A good example of an infraction is a traffic ticket. The good news – you don’t really need to worry about infractions, and you generally aren’t required to report them to an employer. For example, you wouldn’t list last year’s speeding ticket on an employment application (unless of course you were drunk and in possession of a gun at the time).

What About Probation and Outstanding Warrants?

Probation is a period of court supervision. As an alternative to a jail sentence, probation is treated similarly for reporting purposes. If you are on active probation, it will almost certainly show up on a background check. Likewise with outstanding warrants. If a report shows that you have an outstanding bench or arrest warrant, most employers will immediately disqualify you from the application process. Being a “fugitive” of the justice system doesn’t usually bode well with potential employers. Of course, if the outstanding warrant appears to be a mistake, there may be some room for discussion. But that’s generally the exception, not the rule. Continue reading

Any type of Massachusetts warrant is a serious issue and needs dealt with immediately. However, not all warrants are the same. A bench warrant, for example, can be issued for something as simple as missing jury duty, whereas an arrest warrant is only issued in a criminal case.

Arrest Warrants

When a judge believes there is probable cause that you have committed a crime, he or she will likely issue an arrest warrant. This doesn’t mean you have been convicted of a crime, only that you are being charged. Facts obtained during a police investigation or witness testimony may convince a judge that issuing an arrest warrant is the next step in the process.

In my last posting, we spoke about a particular defendant who was arrested for drug crimes. Members of his family were also arrested at the scene for, basically, trying to prevent the arrest from taking place as the officers had intended it. Let’s call them, collectively, the “Defendant Family”.

On Thursday, I indicated that the Defendant Family would already be  affected by their arrest even if they ended up being found “not guilty”.

What many people still do not realize is that you do not need to be convicted to lose your “innocence” under the law.

A Clerk Magistrate hearing takes place in some cases before an arraignment. There is no judge at such a hearing, only a Clerk Magistrate. The purpose of the hearing is to decide if there is probable cause for the Clerk Magistrate to issue a criminal complaint. Should the criminal complaint issue, the next step is an arraignment.

This is why the Clerk Magistrates hearing is so critical to a defendant. It is the last stop before an arraignment. It is more than worth doing all that you can, usually through counsel, to get one. We have discussed the requirements and procedures for this in earlier blogs and, I am sure, will return to them again at some point.

But not today.

As you know, an arraignment is the first time a criminal defendant appears before a judge. At the arraignment, a defendant effectively loses his or her presumption of innocence.

“Sam, how can that be? We are all told that the presumption of innocence never ends unless and until the government proves the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt before a judge or jury.”

You’re right. That is what we are told. In some cases, it is actually close to true.

Continue reading

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