How to Expunge my Public Records in Massachusetts

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Deleting a public record in Massachusetts means removing the record from the database of the government agency in charge of storing and maintaining the record. However, this process does not completely delete the record, it only restricts it from public access. For instance, a criminal history file created and maintained by the Department of Criminal Justice Information Services (DCJIS) may become unavailable to the general public via online background checks and Non-FCRA Compliant third-party background checks if the record holder deletes it.

Generally, not all public records can be deleted in Massachusetts. Court records involving criminal and civil cases may be expunged or sealed by the record holders. However, the Massachusetts constitution does not make provisions for the expungement of vital records like birth, death, or marriage certificates. Individuals may delete a public record by reaching out to the approved record custodian responsible for creating and maintaining public records. Afterward, the record custodian will state the procedure (if available) for deleting a public record. Alternatively, the record holder can contact a County Clerk’s office in Massachusetts. County clerks often provide general information on the location of public records and the possibility of deleting records.

Some information contained in certain public records makes record-holders vulnerable. Individuals may be exposed to harassment, stalking, identity theft, pretexting, inability to get employment/housing, and other risks if personal information/history is public. For instance, an individual with an open credit score or bankruptcy case may find it challenging to secure a loan. For these reasons, deleting public records may be an option.

What is a Public Record in Massachusetts?

Public records are created, maintained, and issued by the government. They may be stored as books, papers, photographs, recorded notes, memos, statistical reports, maps, etc. While some public records are accessible online for free, others are obtainable through request upon a fee payment. Examples of these records are:

  • Arrest records
  • Court records
  • Criminal records
  • Vital records
  • Licensing records
  • Voting records
  • Government financing records, etc.

The Massachusetts Public Records Act, which is similar to the Freedom of Information Act in 1966, maintains that state residents have a right to inspect or copy public records. However, a record is exempted from the Public Records Act if:

  • It is considered confidential by law
  • It contains medical information or the personal information of an individual
  • It contains personal notes of a government employee
  • It is related to the internal practices and regulations of a government agency
  • It contains information on an ongoing investigation
  • It contains trade secrets
  • It contains information that may affect public safety or cybersecurity
  • It contains documents created for the Office of the Child Advocate

Generally, the purpose of the Public Records Acts is to ensure transparency and accountability in public agencies. Public records show the decision-making processes of state and local government officials. It also reveals how decisions from public agencies affect and influence the community. With public records, informed state residents are allowed to participate in the democratic process. However, some information in public records may expose record-holders to all kinds of identity thefts. As a result, individuals may want to delete or seal certain documents that reveal personal information.

Does Massachusetts allow Expungement?

Yes, the expungement of records is available for individuals with criminal records. Once a criminal record is expunged, state courts, law enforcement agencies, or county agencies will no longer access such records. There are two types of Massachusetts state criminal record expungement: time-based expungement and non-time-based expungement. Individuals can file for time-based expungements if:

  • Their criminal records are not more than two.
  • The offense did not lead to physical harm or loss of life.
  • The crime was not carried out with the intent to kill or cause harm.
  • The crime did not involve the use of a deadly weapon or arm.
  • The crime was not perpetrated against aged or incapacitated persons.
  • The crime is not related to any sex crimes, drunk driving offenses, or firearm violations.
  • The convicted person has waited for seven years after completing the sentence for a felony crime. The waiting period for a misdemeanor offense is three years.

On the other hand, a non-time based expungement is available to individuals with criminal records created because of:

  • Identity thefts
  • Errors in judgment committed by law enforcement or court employees
  • Past offenses that are abolished by law
  • Fraudulent judgment

Individuals that have successfully expunged their records may deny having a criminal record.

How Do I Expunge My Criminal Record in Massachusetts

Individuals may file time-based or non-time-based expungements in Massachusetts. Time-based expungements are available to individuals with felony or misdemeanor convictions. An ex-convict must have waited for seven or three years after completing the felony or misdemeanor sentence, respectively. Non-time-based expungements are available to individuals convicted due to identity thefts or errors in judgment (or from law enforcement agencies and court officials). An individual does not have to complete a waiting period to file a non-time-based expungement. To request a time-based expungement, an eligible individual may book an appointment with the Office of the Commissioner of Probation or send a mail request to:

Office of the Commissioner of Probation

One Ashburton Place, Room 405

Boston, MA 02108

Free mail requests should include a completed Petition to Expunge form. Requesters may also present additional details to back their petition. After submitting the petition, the Commissioner of Probation will determine the requester's eligibility and then send a notice to the District Attorney's Office located in the county where the case was tried. The District Attorney may choose to object to the petition or approve it. A court hearing will be required to determine if the expungement will be granted, provided the District Attorney objects to the request. However, if the DA does not object, the court may grant the expungement without a hearing. Copies of the expungement order will be given to successful petitioners by the County Clerk. Note that it will be impossible to obtain an expunged record after the court orders the expungement. As such, requesters can make copies of expunged criminal records before it is permanently destroyed.

To file a non-time-based expungement, an individual should download and complete the Petition for Expungement Form. While filling the form, individuals are advised to check the box for a court hearing since they need to prove to the court why their criminal records should be expunged. All allegations related to the case should be included in the petition form. Furthermore, it is best to file the petition form and all related documents to give credence to the petition. Petitioners are to file a non-time-based expungement in person. This should be done at the Court Clerk's office, where the case was tried.

A copy of the petition form and other documents filed with the Court Clerk should be sent via mail or in-person to the District Attorney's Office that took the case to court. At the court hearing, claimants must provide convincing arguments to show that their criminal records were created based on errors or frauds in judgment. Once the expungement is granted, petitioners will receive a copy of the Court Clerk's expungement order. Petitioners may file non-time-based expungements for different cases at the same time.

Will my Expungement Record Show up on a Background Check in Massachusetts?

An expungement record revealing that a document is unavailable because it was erased may not appear on a background check. Individuals or companies carry out criminal background checks to validate the claims of a worker. According to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), background checks on employees are consumer reports and must comply with the FCRA regulations. One such FCRA regulation maintains that consumer reporting agencies should not disclose negative criminal records created more than seven years back.

How to Seal a Record in Massachusetts

In Massachusetts, both conviction and arrest records can be sealed. Sealed records are restricted from the public, but they are available to approved law enforcement agencies and individuals with court orders. Ex-convicts can seal criminal records:

  • If the conviction is for resisting arrest
  • After three years from the date of a misdemeanor conviction or sentence
  • After seven years from the date of a felony conviction or sentence.

The state arrest record sealing process is available to persons whose cases were dismissed or persons found “not guilty” by the court. A non-conviction record may also be sealed if the grand jury returns a “no bill” on a case or a prosecutor declares “nolle prosequi.” An individual can file a request for record sealing in person.

For sealing conviction records, download and fill the Petition to Seal Conviction Records form and file the completed form at the office of the Massachusetts Probation Service (MPS) at:

Office of the Commissioner of Probation

1, Ashburton Place

Room 405

Boston, MA 02108

Phone: (617) 727-5300

Petitioners are required to call (617) 557-0225 to make an appointment with the Commissioner of Probation before visiting.

To seal an arrest or non-conviction record, the applicant should download and complete the Petition to Seal the Non-Conviction Records form. Completed forms should be filed in-person at the District Court where the petitioner was accused. Individuals may also file requests to seal arrest records at the Boston Municipal Court (BMC) division in their residence. BMC court divisions accept filings of three or more non-conviction records or record dismissals at once. Generally, it is advisable to support your request by including documents like criminal/arrest records, juvenile records, or court dockets when filing. The District Court judge will send a letter if the petition is denied. On the other hand, petitioners will get mail notifications of court hearings if they are eligible for record sealing. District Court Clerks or probation officers will seal records upon notification from District Courts or the Commissioner of Probation that petitions to seal records are granted.

Who Can See My Sealed Record in Massachusetts?

According to the Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 276 § 100D, criminal justice agencies can access sealed adult or juvenile records if the records are needed to perform criminal justice duties. The record holder can also obtain a sealed document.

How to Delete Bankruptcy Records in Massachusetts

Bankruptcy records in Massachusetts showing details of persons who file for bankruptcy in the state are open to the public. The Clerk of the United States Bankruptcy Court District of Massachusetts is tasked with creating and maintaining bankruptcy records in Massachusetts. Credit reporting bureaus like TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax often use bankruptcy records to calculate credit scores and provide credit reports to financial institutions. As a result, a debtor's bankruptcy record may show up in a credit report and affect credit rating.

Debtors who file for bankruptcies under the Bankruptcy Code (Title 11 of the United States Code) may delete their bankruptcy records by providing evidence that the case was wrongly reported. Generally, the process of deleting a bankruptcy record is complicated. However, the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) upholds that a chapter 7 bankruptcy should be removed from a credit report ten years from filing, while a chapter 13 bankruptcy should be removed after seven years. As a result, debtors who cannot delete their bankruptcy records in court may wait for the expiration period.

What are Consumer Protection Laws in Massachusetts

The Massachusetts Consumer Protection laws were created to enable consumers and the Attorney General to file lawsuits against deceptive and unfair conduct in the business world. According to the Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 93A, "unfair methods of competition and unfair or deceptive acts or practices" in any commercial activity of trade are illegal. Examples of unfair or deceptive practices are:

  • False marketing or advertising of goods.
  • Refusal to comply with market or manufacturing standards.
  • Fake free prize offers.
  • Misrepresentation of services and goods.
  • Refusal to meet warranty agreement.

Individuals and business entities can take legal actions against violators of the consumer protection laws. Consumers filing a suit against a business entity for unfair and deceptive practice must prove to the court that:

  • Their involvement in the trade was for personal or household purposes.
  • The actions of the defendant were "deceptive" or "unfair," as stated under
  • The actions of the defendant resulted in the loss of personal property or money.

Consumers are expected to send a letter to the defendant 30 days before filing a claim under the consumer protection law. The 30-day demand letter should contain the consumer's personal information, the injury suffered, and the amount for compensation.

How to Delete Lien Records in Massachusetts

Lien records are public records maintained by the Massachusetts Secretary of State. Creditors file UCC (Uniform Commercial Code) liens to notify public members that they have a security interest in debtors' assets. A lien is a claim placed on a debtor's property or asset to enable the lender to get back the money owed if the debtor defaults in payment. Debtors will be unable to sell their property if creditors file UCC liens. Also, a lien record on a debtor's property will ultimately affect the debtor's credit rating and also the possibility of getting employed. A Generally, a lien record can be removed if the debtor pays back the debt or sets up a repayment plan with the creditor.

Federal tax lien placed by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) becomes public after the department files the Notice of Federal Tax Lien. This is published to notify borrowers of the government’s claim to the tax defaulter’s assets. Tax liens can be removed if defaulters pay their debts in full. This will prompt the IRS to release the lien within 30 days from the time of payment. However, releasing a tax lien does not delete the lien from public view. To delete a federal tax lien, debtors must complete the Application for Withdrawal of Tax Lien and submit it to the IRS. Completed forms should be sent via certified mail to one of the local offices in Massachusetts. Interested persons may look up lien records in Massachusetts through the UCC Public Search hosted on the Secretary of State’s website. Note that public agencies are not consumer reporting agencies and are Non-FCRA Compliant.

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