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Sealing Mass. Criminal Records may not Prevent Disclosure

Massachusetts Registry News

Questions routinely arise regarding the sealing of criminal records, so that they cannot be discovered by prospective employers and others. As compared to an “unsealed” Massachusetts criminal record, a sealed record is accessible to markedly fewer people and entities. It cannot generally be relied upon disqualify applicants from “public” employment by Commonwealth or its political subdivisions. However, even sealed records can be used for certain purposes. For example, sealed adult, as opposed to juvenile, record can be used for firearms licensing purposes. Sealing can be important because criminal records can be released and disseminated to any member of public if the release and dissemination is connected to ongoing investigation. The sealing of records is much different from expungement, which refers to destroying a record so that no trace remains. Sealing does not erase or obliterate the record, it only restricts access.

It is important to note that an individual’s Massachusetts driving record, which is maintained by the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles contains records of criminal convictions for both motor vehicle and certain non-motor vehicle related offenses. For example, a drunk driving charge, whether it originated in Massachusetts or in another state or jurisdiction, will appear on your Massachusetts driver history. The DUI charge will appear on your record whether it is resolved by an admission to sufficient facts followed by a continauce without a finding (CWOF), conviction, plea bargain, or even a not guilty verdict or dismissal. Other motor vehicle charges such as operating after suspension, no liability policy, leaving the scene, and the like will appear on your driving record. Other non-driving related violations such as possession of controlled substances, possession with intent, distribution, trafficking, and other drug charges as well as charges for tagging, theft of concealment of a motor vehicle, and a variety of others will appear on your Massachusetts driving record. Sealing your criminal record will not seal or erase these charges which appear on your driving history. The Massachusetts sealing statute commands only the Commissioner of Probation to seal his records. It does not require the Registrar of Motor Vehicles to seal her records.

With the lifetime lookback provision of Melanie’s Law, the Registry will absolutely and positively not remove drunk driving and other criminal convictions from an individual’s driver history. The Mass. Registry will permanently maintain a record of these criminal violations and it will not remove them from an individual’s driving record, even if the underlying criminal record is sealed.

Individuals who are facing criminal charges such as operating under the influence should be aware that the Registry of Motor Vehicles will maintain a permanent record of the charge and sealing the criminal record will do nothing to prevent the Registry from disclosing the record to a prospective employer or other permitted recipient of the individual’s driving record.

Employers are legally prohibited from requiring job applicants to provide a copy of the applicant’s Massachusetts criminal record. However, nothing prohibits an employer or prospective employer from requiring an applicant to provide a certified copy of the individual’s driving record as part of the application process. These records will reflect drunk driving, drug offenses, and other criminal offenses, even when the underlying probation or court records are sealed.

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