CORI Reform Bill Passed In Massachusetts

The Criminal Offender Records Information ((CORI) reform bill (House Bill No. 4703) passed in the state house in June by a vote of 138-17. It received final approval as the session of the legislature came to a close. Governor Deval Patrick is supposed to sign the bill on August 6, 2010 and new law will take effect 18 months after it is signed. 

The CORI Reform Bill makes several significant changes to the existing CORI laws.  One of the most significant changes is a reduction in the amount of time one has to wait to seal a criminal conviction.  Under the new law, a misdemeanor conviction can be sealed after 5 years (formerly 10 years) and a felony conviction can be sealed after 10 years (formerly 15 years).  In addition, the requisite waiting period will be computed from the beginning of the disposition rather than upon completion of the disposition. 

For example, under the old law, a person convicted of a crime and given an prison sentence could only petition for sealing after 10 or 15 years had passed following completion of the prison sentence.   Under the new law, the 5 or 10 year waiting period would start at the beginning of the prison sentence. 

Another significant change under the new law is the way violations of 209A restraining orders and 258E harassment orders are treated for sealing purposes.  Both crimes are misdemeanors with regards to the maximum incarcerated sentence that could be imposed.  For sealing purposes, however, both types of violations will be considered felonies.  This means that a conviction for violating a 209A restraining order or a 258E harassment order will not be eligible for sealing until after 10 years, not 5 years, have passed.

The new law will also eliminate all sex offenses, as defined by G.L. ch.6, s.178C, from eligibility for sealing under G.L. ch. 276, s. 100A.  This means that convictions for sex offenses will no longer be sealable after a certain period of time has elapsed.  This elimination of sex offenses from sealing eligibility makes it crucial to all persons with a sex offense conviction on their record that could be presently be sealed to petition to seal their record as soon as possible, before the new law takes effect. 

The new law also makes changes to CORI access levels, which will be the subject of a future blog post. 

The new CORI laws will make it much easier to seal your CORI in most instances.  Contrary to popular misconception, potential employers or schools or other non-criminal justice agency requestors will NOT be told that you have a sealed record (which would likely invite negative speculation), but rather will be told that you have no record.  The benefits of sealing therefore exceed the drawbacks of sealing.  If you have any sort of entry on your CORI, you should contact an attorney to discuss sealing your CORI. 

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