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What juveniles need to know about expungement in Massachusetts

The brains of young people are still developing, but in spite of their mental and emotional immaturity, they may make mistakes that follow them for years after they become adults. If those mistakes result in a conviction, the criminal record can affect where young people live, whether they go to college and what jobs are open to them. 

Recent changes to the law mean there is good news for many young people with criminal records in Massachusetts. Beginning October 1st, certain records may be eligible for expungement.

What is expungement?

Expungement varies from one state to the next, but Massachusetts law says that an expunged record is completely and permanently destroyed. Unlike a sealed record, which authorities such as law enforcement or court officials may view, an expunged record no longer exists.

What records are eligible for expungement?

Most juvenile misdemeanor and felony nonviolent offenses will eventually become eligible for expungement. There are 20 exceptions, most of which involve violence.

When a person's criminal record came about because the authorities made a mistake, because of identity fraud or because of false identification, that record is eligible for expungement.

When can a record be expunged?

There is a considerable waiting period between the time of the offense and the eligibility for expungement. Those with a juvenile misdemeanor conviction may not file for three years, and those with a juvenile felony conviction must wait seven years. 

What are the effects of expungement?

A criminal record can keep a person from qualifying for many jobs, including those with local, state and federal agencies. After expungement, this barrier no longer exists. A job seeker may indicate on an application that he or she has no criminal record, and the employer may not ask in an interview whether the applicant has ever had his or her record expunged.

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