A felony has a big impact on a person’s life and if you live in Massachusetts, you’ve come here trying to find out how to get the felony off your record. Realize that with all felony records, there are three options you can take. 1) Expunge Your Record 2) Seal Your Record 3) Request a Pardon of Your Record
The problem though is that all states don’t offer all three of these options. But before we get into what Massachusetts offers, let’s review what each of these options actually mean.
If you get your record expunged in Massachusetts it’s as if your arrest and/or charges never happened. Your record is completely destroyed, including all physical and public records. When asked if have a criminal record, after expungement, you can truthfully answer “no”.
Sealing your record in Massachusetts is similar to expungement, but your record still exists in a limited form. The public does not have access to your record, but there are some exceptions. Your records can still be accessed by law enforcement and the courts. Record sealing is not as secure as expungement, but it is a reasonable alternative that is comparatively easier to obtain if your state offers it.
If you receive a pardon in Massachusetts, you still have record of your arrest or charge, but your guilt is exonerated. That is, you have proven that you are rehabilitated and forgiven for your crimes. You can also get relief in terms of having various rights restored, such as your right to vote. The requirements for pardons vary between states, but typically there is a lot of documentation required, and includes lengthy waiting periods to apply and receive a pardon.
Things to Know Before You Start
First: It’s important to understand that every state is different in terms of what methods are available for felons to remove their record and the information below will help you understand what you can do in Massachusetts.
Felony Expungement in Massachusetts
Yes, it is possible to expunge your felony in Massachusetts but it depends on the felony.
Sealing a Record in Massachusetts
Yes, it is possible to seal your record in Massachusetts but it depends on the felony.
Getting a Pardon in Massachusetts
Yes, it is possible to get a pardon of your record in Massachusetts but it depends on the felony.
Second: When trying to clear your record, you really have two options. The first is to get a free consultation from a lawyer to see what they think of your case, and the second is to try to do all of the paperwork yourself.
Third: We HIGHLY recommend that you get a free consultation from a lawyer prior to taking any action. We say this because whether you want to expunge, seal, or pardon your record, it’s an extremely complicated process. Failure to follow the process properly can end up with you being denied for the request and having to wait additional time (sometimes several years) before you can file again. In addition, getting an expungement lawyer can increase your odds of succeeding and sometimes it’s more affordable than you think. The first step is to click on the button below to confirm that you’re eligible for the expungement/sealing off your record.
Can You Expunge a Felony in Massachusetts?
Unfortunately, the process for getting a criminal record expunged in Massachusetts is complex and rarely succeeds. If you want to try to expunge your criminal record, you will want to seek the help of an attorney who specializes in expunging criminal records.
How to Expunge a Felony in Massachusetts
Before you begin this process, we insist that you take this eligibility test to determine if you’re eligible to expunge your record. If you are eligible, you should talk to the lawyer that we refer you to so that you get an idea of the price for their services (it’s likely cheaper than you think because expungements are mostly paperwork) and see what other helpful information they can give you. If you are not eligible for expungement based on our test, then you should stop here.
Can You Seal Your Criminal Record in Massachusetts?
In Massachusetts, you must wait 10 years before you can apply to seal your record, and those convicted as juveniles must wait three years, with the clock restarting if subsequent convictions occur. Certain crimes, including firearms offenses and any conviction requiring registration as a sex offender, never can be sealed.
CANNOT SEAL IF…
It’s been less than 10 years. You must wait 10 years until you have successfully completed your conviction before you may apply to have your record sealed.Firearm Offenses. You cannot seal your record if you were charged with a firearm offense. Sex OffensesIf you were convicted of a felony with a sexual offense, you cannot seal your record.-Note- depending on the sexual offense, you may be able to have the record sealed after 15 years.
How to Seal Your Criminal Record in Massachusetts
Before you begin this process, we insist that you take this eligibility test to determine if you’re eligible to seal your record. If you are eligible, you should talk to the lawyer that we refer you to so that you get an idea of the price for their services (it’s likely cheaper than you think because expungements are mostly paperwork) and see what other helpful information they can give you. If you are not eligible to seal your record based on our test, then you should stop here. If you are eligible to seal your record based on our test and want to do this without a lawyer, continue reading. If you are seeking to seal eligible criminal court record(s) of the Boston Municipal Court Department, and you reside in one of the territories covered by the BMCD court divisions (Brighton, downtown Boston, Charlestown, Dorchester, East Boston, Roxbury, South Boston, and West Roxbury), then you may file your request at the BMCD court division where you live. Steps to seal your record in Massachusetts:
Step 1. The first step in Massachusetts is reviewing a copy of the CORI (Criminal Offender Record Information) report by completing the application and returning it, along with a $25 money order. If you cannot afford it, you can demonstrate that you need to turn in the application for free.
Step 2. You must sign the form in front of a Notary Public. You can find a Notary Public in many places. In Massachusetts, a Notary Public can’t charge more than $1.25 to notarize your document.
Step 3. Next, complete a petition to seal and return it by mail to the Commissioner of Probation.
Step 4. A judge may conduct a preliminary hearing to determine whether you have presented a prima facie case (essentially a first review to see if you have met your initial legal burden) for sealing your court record(s), or a judge may conduct this review based upon your petition. (30) days notice, then no criminal records from other court divisions will be sealed at the final hearing.
Step 5. After the final hearing, if the judge approves your petition, the judge must make specific findings on the court record giving his/her reason(s) for allowing the sealing.
Can You Apply for a Pardon in Massachusetts?
The Governor can put any conditions, restrictions, and limitations on the pardon as he deems proper. There is a body called the Massachusetts Parole Board, which screens all pardon applications and makes recommendations to the Governor. The Board is made up of seven members who are appointed by the Governor and who each serve a five-year term.
CANNOT PARDON IF…
Clear and convincing evidence. The Massachusetts Parole Board will only make a favorable recommendation for a pardon if you can show all of the following by “clear and convincing evidence”: A specific compelling need for a pardon. A substantial period of good citizenship following the criminal offense for which you are requesting a pardon. The ends of justice will be served by granting you a pardon. Less than 15 years. If it has been less than 15 years since you have successfully completed your conviction, and/or you have had any legal issues following your completion, you cannot petition the Board for a pardon. Out-of-State Conviction, the Governor cannot grant a pardon for any convictions outside of the state of Massachusetts.
How to Apply for a Pardon in Massachusetts
There are no fees to apply for a pardon in Massachusetts. Before they are seen by the Governor, all pardon petitions must first be filed with the Massachusetts Parole Board. The Parole Board determines eligibility, conducts investigations, holds hearings, and makes recommendations to the Governor on all pardon applications. The entire process can take up to a year and a half. Before you begin this process, we insist that you take this eligibility test to determine if you’re eligible to request a pardon for your record. In most cases, if you are eligible for expungement on our test, then you’ll be eligible for a pardon. If you are eligible, you should talk to the lawyer that we refer you to so that you get an idea of the price for their services (it’s likely cheaper than you think because requesting a pardon is mostly paperwork) and see what other helpful information they can give you. If you are not eligible based on our test, then you should stop here. If you are eligible based on our test and want to do this without a lawyer, continue reading.The Parole Board has provided a simple, self-explanatory pardon application form for you to use. The form can be obtained on the Internet here. If you cannot access the webpage or the application itself, you can call the Governor’s office directly at 617-725-4015 and ask for one to be mailed or possibly emailed to you. You can also write to:
Governor’s Council State House, Room 184 Boston, MA 02133
Steps to apply for a pardon in Massachusetts
Step 1. Fill out the form. The form is rather simple and self-explanatory.
Step 2. Arrests and convictions. There will be a section on the form that asks you to list all of your arrests and convictions, including federal and out-of-state arrests and convictions.
Step 3. There will also be a section on the application that asks you to explain why you would like a pardon. This is perhaps the most important part of your application. Explain how you have been prevented from pursuing certain jobs, housing, trade or occupational licenses because of the conviction, and how it has negatively affected you and/or your family. If you are facing deportation, explain how it would negatively affect you and/or your family if you are deported.Remember, your need must be “compelling.” The bottom line is, whatever your “compelling need” may be, you must submit written proof beyond merely your words.
Step 4. There will be a section on the application that asks whether, to the best of your knowledge, you would be eligible for a sealing of your conviction under Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 276, Section 100A. You should either talk to an attorney or refer the Governor’s Executive Clemency Guidelines to determine if you are eligible for a sealing. The Governor’s Executive Clemency Guidelines can be found here.
Step 5. Show you are a good citizenYou must also show that you have been a good citizen for a substantial period of time ever since your conviction. List all of the positive things that have occurred in your life, such as educational achievements, new or stable employment, marriage and children, community involvement, charitable donations or services, professional associations or licenses, law-abiding behavior, etc. Provide documentary evidence of these things, such as copies of your college transcript, high school diploma or GED, marriage certificate, military certificate, children’s birth certificate, awards and recognitions, etc. It is not enough to simply show the Governor that you have stayed out of trouble; the Governor wants to see specific achievements.
Step 6. Letters of recommendation. Finally, you will be required to submit at least three letters of recommendation from individuals, other than family members, who know you well and can attest to your good character and reputation.These should come from credible people such as your minister, a teacher, a judge, your Congressperson, a present or former boss, etc. A letter from your buddy from high school, on the other hand, will probably not be very credible.Step 8. Make a copy of everything you send for your records.Your entire application, including all letters and supporting documents, must be mailed to: Governor’s Executive Council State House, Room 184 Boston, MA 02133
Step 7. If, after initially reviewing your application the Parole Board deems you eligible for a pardon, it will schedule a public hearing on your application. The Parole Board will send a notice of your application and the hearing date to the following individuals, who are given an opportunity to make a written recommendation: The Attorney General The Chief of Police in the municipality where you committed the crime. The District Attorney in the district where you were sentenced. The Justice in the court where you were sentenced. The Secretary of Public Safety. The victim will also be notified of the hearing at least 30 days before the hearing. The victim will be given an opportunity to voice his/her opinion, either in writing or at the hearing.
Step 8. If a hearing is held, you not only must attend, but should also look and act your best. Dress in the same way you would if you were going to court for a trial. Have friends, family members, neighbors, co-workers, and others in your community attend the hearing to show their support. The hearing is a good opportunity to put a human face onto your application; it lets the Parole Board not only see you in person but also see the amount of support you have in your community. Be upfront and cooperative at all times. This includes the information you provide in your application as well as information you provide at the hearing. In particular, if you have had any restraining orders or other court orders (for example, a contempt order) issued against you in the past 5 years, you must let the Parole Board know this.
Step 9. After the Parole Board has reviewed your case and conducted the hearing (if one is held) it can either deny your application without sending it to the Governor, or it send your entire file, along with its recommendation and report, to the Governor. The Parole Board’s report, recommendation, and other information in your pardon application will be public record for ten years.
So, there you have it. Three separate ways to get rid of your record in Massachusetts. As we’ve said numerous times throughout this page, this is a really complicated process and we highly recommend that you take this eligibility test prior to taking any action to determine if you are eligible for any of these options.
Please note, the information contained here is not legal advice and is strictly informational. If you have any further questions about the information above, or in general, you need to contact a lawyer directly.