You can ask to have your case sealed right away (you do not have to wait) if your case ended with a:
- Not Guilty
- No Probable Cause
- "Nolle Prosequi" or "Nol Pros" - The prosecutor does not wish to prosecute the case.
- NOTE: Continued Without Findings (CWOF) are now treated as non-convictions once probation is complete and the case is dismissed (change is part of the new CORI laws).
If you were on probation you cannot ask a judge to seal your case, even if it was dismissed. Cases with probation have the same waiting periods and sealing process as convictions.
To ask the court to seal your case, you will need to go back to the court where the case was heard. You will need to ask a judge of the court that handled the case to seal the case, and it is up to the judge to decide whether or not to do so.
If you have a charge at the Roxbury District Court and a charge at the Dedham District Court, you will have to go to each court to seal the records. A list of courts and their addresses and phone numbers is available online. You must go to the Criminal Clerk’s Office at the court to get a Petition to Seal form. Once you get the petition to seal, fill it out and return it to the clerk. The clerk will post your request in the courthouse for seven days. The clerk will also tell you when to come back to the court for a hearing with the judge.
You will have a short hearing before a judge where you can present your case to have your record sealed. At the hearing, you can either explain your case yourself, or you can hire a lawyer to speak for you. Many people go to these hearings without a lawyer and win.
If you will not have a lawyer, you will need to get ready for your hearing. Before the hearing date, prepare a short, three-minute explanation about how the records you are trying to seal have kept you from getting jobs, housing or other services. If you have them, bring rejection letters from jobs and housing to the hearing.
At this hearing, you need to explain your record and try to convince the judge of three things:
- That there is a "compelling government interest" in sealing the records (for instance, it benefits the state if you can get a job, housing or other services).
- That this compelling government interest is greater than the First Amendment interest of the public to be able to see court records.
- That this is in the interest of fairness or substantial justice to seal your record.
You should explain your record. Very briefly, explain what happened when you were charged. If you could show that the charge was false, that could help your case for sealing. Tell the judge how your life has changed since you were in court for this charge. If you have not been involved with the police recently, it is important to tell that to the judge.
In some courts, the judge may want a second hearing, which will be similar to the first one. You will need to present your explanation again.
After the hearing, you will get a letter in the mail with the judge's decision. If you do not hear from the court in seven to ten days, or if you have any questions, contact the Criminal Clerk's Office at the court.