Expungement vs. Sealing a Record

Are you about to apply for a job but have concerns about things that have happened in your past and you don’t want potential employers knowing about it? What can you do? One option is to get your prior offenses sealed.

Many people use the terms expungement and sealing a record interchangeably; however, this is a common misunderstanding. An expungement means that all traces of the record are gone and it is treated as if it never happened. Expungement is used in very rare circumstances, and typically will occur in cases such as when someone steals the identity of another and then commits a crime, but the person’s identity that was stolen is charged. Unlike expungement, sealing a record means that the general public does not have the ability to see it with the caveat that certain employers and agencies, such as firearm licensing authorities, can still access it. Additionally this information is still available to courts, probation officers and law enforcement. According to Massachusetts’ case law, once an individual’s record is sealed, he or she may answer “no record” to any question regarding criminal history, and courts and the probation department must report that “no record” exists to anyone who inquires.

So the next question that must follow is, when may a criminal record be sealed? To answer that question, it is important to know whether the offense is a misdemeanor or a felony. This is because the time frame for each is different. Misdemeanors require a period of five years to have elapsed while felonies require ten years. If a conviction occurs during the waiting period, the record will not be eligible for sealing until time has elapsed for the new conviction. Sex offenses are generally not sealable for a period of fifteen years; however, level 2 or level 3 sex offender offenses cannot be sealed. Additionally, there are convictions, such as firearms charges, which are not eligible for sealing.

If you are looking to seal a record, contact The Law Office Of Barry J. Bisson today.

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