Most people do not realize that anytime you are arraigned on a criminal charge, an entry has been made on your criminal record, also known as a Board of Probation record (BOP) or Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI). These entries on your CORI appear regardless of how the case was resolved. You do not need to be convicted to have entries on your CORI.
If you have ever been arraigned of any crime in Massachusetts, and especially if you have been convicted, you should know all your legal rights about who can access your CORI and you should seriously consider sealing your CORI.
Having entries criminal record can cause you harm in many ways, often without your knowing it. You may be passed over for employment for that other candidate who does not have any entries on his CORI; that school may deny your admission, again preferring that other equally qualified candidate with a clean CORI; or that landlord may opt to rent that apartment to the applicant with no criminal record.
There are a myriad of ways having a CORI can hurt you, and absolutely no way having a CORI can help you. Do you think that the decision-maker, be it a potential employer, admissions officer, landlord, or loan officer, is going to care that you were not actually convicted of the crime on your CORI? Do you think that the decision-maker will give you a chance to explain? Or is the more likely scenario that someone else is chosen over you?
Sealing your entire criminal record will help you avoid these embarrassing, harmful and unnecessary scenarios. The Law Office of Dominic L. Pang can help you minimize the economic and social problems caused by a criminal record.
The Massachusetts CORI Reform Bill was signed into law by the Governor on August 6, 2010. The provision applicable to the sealing statutes, M.G.L. ch. 276, s.100A and 100C go into effect on May 4, 2012, and make important changes in how sealing is handled in Massachusetts.
Shortening of Waiting Periods For Sealing
Under the old version of the sealing statute, one of the conditions to seal an old felony or misdemeanor conviction under 276, 100A was that 15 or 10 years, respectively, had to have elapsed since the end of the probation of prison sentence before a person could move to seal his or her CORI. The new law shortens these waiting periods to 10 and 5 years for felonies and misdemeanors, respectively. In addition to satisfying the waiting period, the person must not have been found guilty of any criminal offense within the commonwealth in the case of a misdemeanor, 5 years before the request, and in the case of a felony, 10 years before request, except motor vehicle offenses in which the penalty does not exceed a fine of $50, and the charges sought to be sealed can not be violations of sections 121 to 131H, inclusive, of chapter 140 or for violations of chapter 268 or chapter 268A.
Dismissals After Probation Now Eligible for Sealing
Under the current version of s. 100C, dismissals that resulted after a period of probation are not eligible to be sealed. For example, a typical disposition of a Continuation Without a Finding (CWOF) that results in a dismissal upon successful completion of probation technically cannot be sealed under 100C. This currently leaves a petition filed under 100A, and it's applicable waiting periods, as the only way to seal a dismissal that followed a probationary period. The amended version of 100C, going into effect May 4, 2012, removes this restriction and dismissals that follow a probationary period can be sealed without having to wait for the applicable time period to elapse under 100A.
Violations of 209A Abuse Orders and 258E Harassment Order Are Considered Felonies for Sealing Purposes
While violations of 209A and 258E orders are misdemeanors for the purposes of sentencing, the new law considers convictions for these crimes as felonies for the purposes of sealing. This means that a person with a conviction of either of these crimes will have to wait 10 years, rather than 5 years, to seal a conviction for these charge
The passage of the new CORI law means that many more past charges will become eligible for sealing, both because of the shortened waiting periods and lifting of the prohibition against 100C sealing when there has been probation imposed. Sealing is an area of the law that is largely misunderstood by both lay persons and legal professionals, and many misconceptions abound. The best way to determine if your record can be sealed is to contact an attorney with experience in the area.
Chapter 256 of the Acts of 2010 (aka The Massachusetts CORI Reform Bill) made significant changes to the extent to which a requestor can access your CORI. Most of the changes in access are embodied in G.L. ch. 6, sections 172, 172B-172K. The four main levels of CORI access, from highest to lowest, are 1) criminal justice agencies, 2) requestors authorized or required by statute to access CORI, 3) employers, landlords, evaluators of volunteers, professional or occupational licensing boards, and 4 ) the general public.
What another party can see on your CORI depends on who that other party is. The levels of CORI access are: Open, Standard and Required Access 1 - Required Access 4. Depending on the CORI Access Level, the party requesting your CORI could be able to see non-convictions such as Continuations Without a Finding (CWOF) or pending cases. A summary of the various levels of CORI access and examples of requestors who fall into each level of access can be found here.
Under the new law, "criminal justice agencies" (i.e. the police, the district attorney's office, the courts) have the same level of access to UNSEALED CORI as under the old law. That is, criminal justice agencies can see convictions, non-convictions and pending cases (so-called "all available criminal record information").
Under the new law, criminal justice agencies and firearms licensing authorities have a greater access to SEALED CORI, and can access all convictions, non-convictions (this includes straight dismissals, dismissals following a CWOF, not guilties and nolle prosequis) and pending cases even if the CORI has been sealed.
These entities may have a higher level of CORI access than employers/ landlords/ professional licensing boards (see next section) IF a statute grants said entity a high level of access. It really depends on the identity of the requestor. For example, if the requestor is a children's camp or a nursing home, statutes authorize this requestor to obtain "all available criminal record information" in evaluating a prospective employee or volunteer.
This would include non-convictions like dismissals. NOTE: This level of CORI access applies only to UNSEALED CORI. If someone has a SEALED CORI, these requestors will be told the person has NO RECORD, regardless of the statutorily granted enhanced level of CORI access.
Under the new laws, these types of requestors can see:
1) Felony convictions for 10 years following the disposition
2) Misdemeanor convictions for 5 years following the disposition
3) "Pending criminal charges", which are defined as cases which are not yet disposed of AND cases that are continued without a finding (CWOF) but not yet dismissed. The ability for an employer/landlord/volunteer evaluator/licensing board to see a CWOF prior to the CWOF being dismissed is significant. This means that even though a person was not convicted of the crime (a CWOF is not a conviction), this type of requestor could still see a CWOF, until that CWOF is dismissed at the end of probation. After the CWOF is dismissed, it will not appear on the CORI that is sent to this type of requestor. The above situation involves UNSEALED CORI. As with other non-criminal justice agency type requestors, if you get your CORI sealed, these types of requestors will be told you have NO RECORD
Under the new law, the general public is limited to 1) felony convictions, but only for felonies punishable by a 5 or more years in prison, regardless of how long ago the conviction occurred; 2) information about a person convicted of any crime AND sentenced to any term of imprisonment AND at the time of the request is either incarcerated, on parole or on probation; 3) felony convictions for crimes punishable by less than 5 years in prison. but only for 2 years following the conviction and including any period of incarceration; 4) misdemeanor convictions for 1 year following the conviction and including any period of incarceration. The above situation involves UNSEALED CORI.
As with other non-criminal justice agency type requestors, if you get your CORI sealed, these types of requestors will be told you have NO RECORD.
The most often touted reason against sealing one's CORI is that requestors will be told you have a sealed CORI, and will speculate negatively as to what is behind the seal.
This is a myth, and needs to be dispelled. If a person has a sealed CORI, non-criminal justice agency requestors will be told that person has NO RECORD. Requestors will NOT be told the person has a sealed record.
From General Laws chapter 276, s. 100C:
"The commissioner or the clerk of courts in any district or superior court or the Boston municipal court, in response to inquiries by authorized persons other than any law enforcement agency or any court, shall in the case of a sealed record report that no record exists."
Under the old law CORI laws, criminal justice agencies were told that either, "At least 1 sealed record on file" (for sealed adult records) or "Sealed delinquency record over three years old" (for sealed juvenile records). A court order was required for a criminal justice agency to look past the seal. Under the new CORI laws, criminal justice agencies and firearms licensing authorities will be able to see past the seal without a court order.
For all non-criminal justice agencies (parties required by statute to access CORI, potential employers, landlords, licensing boards, volunteer evaluators, the general public), a request for sealed CORI information is answered with "No record" for adult and juvenile records. Contrary to popular belief, these types of entities will NOT be told you have a record, but it was sealed. By statute, they must be told that you have no record.
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