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Massachusetts Law About Criminal Records

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2010 CORI Reform Explained: How the law is changing, and when. 5-page chart outlines differences between the current law and new law, and provides effective dates for each change.

Department of Criminal Justice Information Services. The agency responsible for administering CORI, their site has a wealth of information on all CORI-related issues.

New iCORI Service, Department of Criminal Justice Information Services. "The DCJIS has launched a new online criminal history request service called iCORI. This service will allow individuals and organizations to request and obtain Massachusetts criminal offender record information (CORI) over the internet."

Massachusetts Laws

MGL c.6, s. 167-178B Criminal Offender Record Information Act (CORI). Includes changes effective May 4, 2012.

Massachusetts Regulations

Executive Orders

Executive Order 495: Regarding the Use and Dissemination of Criminal Offender Record Information by the Executive Department.

Forms

CORI Forms

Access to CORI

Reading a CORI Report and Contents of CORI Reports

Crimes. An abbreviated version of the Master Crime List, this is a list of common offenses with their MGL chapter and section references.

Disposition Codes. Executive Office of Public Safety and Security. Use this PDF for an interpretation of the various abbreviated disposition codes used on a CORI report.

Sample Criminal Record, Mass. Criminal History Systems Board.

Accessing Your Own CORI

How Do I Get a Copy of My CORI?, Mass. Legal Help. Outlines the process and provides links to forms for requesting a copy of your own CORI.

Access by the General Public

Massachusetts Laws:

Judicial Archives of the State Archives. For information prior to 1860. The records for the various county courts (1636-1860) are in the Judicial Archives of the State Archives in Boston. For further assistance you may consult the Finding Aids for the County at the State Archives (Reference Desk) or Contact the Judicial Archives. You should try to find as much information about the case as you can before you contact them. We were told that the person's name, year of the trial, as well as the type of crime is helpful. The archivist suggested that local newspapers from around the time of the trial often provide detailed information.

Public Record Requests and CORI, SPR Bulletin 3-03. "There is little doubt that MOST police records are public records and must be available to anyone upon request."

Open Access CORI, Dept. of Criminal Justice Information Services. "Any member of the general public may upon written request to the department and in accordance with regulations established by the department obtain the following criminal offender record information on a subject: (i) convictions for any felony punishable by a term of imprisonment of 5 years or more; (ii) information indicating custody status and placement within the correction system for an individual who has been convicted of any offense and sentenced to any term of imprisonment, and at the time of the request: is serving a sentence of probation or incarceration, or is under the custody of the parole board; (iii) felony convictions for 2 years following the disposition thereof, including any period of incarceration or custody; and (iv) misdemeanor convictions for 1 year following the disposition thereof, including any period of incarceration or custody."

Who Can See My CORI?, Mass. Legal Help. Lists the types of people and organizations who have access to your criminal record.

Housing and CORI Access

Housing and CORI, Mass. Legal Help. Explains the access of a housing authority or potential landlord to your criminal history, and how to obtain housing if you have a criminal record. Covers both public and private housing.

Employment and CORI Access

Consideration of Arrest and Conviction Records in Employment Decisions Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, EEOC, Under the guidance, background checks must be job-related and consistent with business necessity. When considering conviction records, employers must look at (1) the nature and gravity of the offense, (2) the amount of time that has passed since the offense, and (3) the nature of the position sought. According to the EEOC, arrest records are never job-related and consistent with business necessity because applicants must be treated as innocent until proven guilty.

MGL c. 71, s.38R Schools' access to criminal records; employees, contractors, and volunteers; use limited to protection of children

MGL c.151B, s.4 (9-1/2) as added by St.2010, c.256, s.101. An employer may not "request on its initial written application form criminal record information," unless very specific conditions apply. Effective Nov. 4, 2010.

MGL c.15D, s.7-8 Background Checks for Teachers. Teachers at schools and day care centers, bus drivers and others will be required to submit fingerprints for background checks.

Bellin v. Kelley, 435 Mass. 261, 755 N.E.2d 1274 (2001). According to this decision, an investigating police officer did not act wrongly in revealing an employee's CORI history to an employer. The decision further stated that an employer could fire the employee for the employee's failure to submit to a polygraph test. Summary judgments were thus granted for both the police officer and the employer who were among the defendants in the matter.

CORI Reform in Massachusetts, Boston Worker's Alliance, 2010. Includes great chart summarizing differences between old and new criminal records laws.

Criminal Offender Record Information Administrative Procedure Reforms: MCAD Fact Sheet, November 2010. Detailed explanation of what employers may and may not ask applicants under the new law, which employers must comply, and the relevant exceptions.

How Your Criminal History May Affect You When Enlisting in the Army, Children's Law Center. Explains what may disqualify an enlistee, and the "moral waiver" process that may enable you to enlist despite a record.

Human Services Jobs and Your CORI, Mass. Legal Help. Human services agencies face restrictions on who they may hire, depending on the criminal record involved. Outlines the laws and how to overcome obstacles in working for human services if you have a criminal record.

Massachusetts Overhauls Accessibility to Criminal Information of Applicants and Employees, Morgan, Brown & Joy, LLP, 2010. Good explanation of CORI law changes.

New Massachusetts Law on Criminal Background Checks, Jackson Lewis, August 2010. Clear and concise explanation of the new CORI law for employers.

"Primer on CORI Reform for Employers", by Catherine E. Reuben. Mass. Law Review, vol. 95, Issue 1 (June, 2013), pp. 163- 170 Good discussion of the 'key provisions of CORI Reform that went into effect on May 4, 2012'.

Access by Court

Commonwealth v. Morse, 50 Mass.App.Ct. 582, 740 NE2d 998 (2000). Appeals Court is entitled to access probation-related documents according to the Criminal Offender Records Information System, regardless of whether or not the records were included within the record of an appeal.

Media Access and Dissemination

Globe Newspaper Co. v. District Attorney for Middle Dist., 439 Mass. 374, 788 NE2d 513 (2003) Newspaper had sought disclosure of docket numbers of criminal cases involving municipal corruption, prosecuted in public judicial proceedings. Among its findings, court held that CORI statute did not prevent disclosure of criminal record information, but newspaper only had a disclosure right to the extent the requested information correlated with information available from court records or other public records.

Sealing, Expungement and Pardons

Massachusetts Laws:

Court Rules:

Commonwealth v. Pon, 469 Mass. 296 (2014). Establishes a new standard and procedure for sealing of a criminal case ending in a dismissal or entry of a nolle prosequi, making it easier to have those records sealed. New!

Know Your CORI Rights: Criminal Records Sealing and CORI Reform, Mass. Legal Services, 2014. Questions and answers on sealing your record, how to do it, when, why, and when it may not be necessary. New!

Chief of Police of Shelburne v. Moyer, 16 Mass.App.Ct. 543, 453 N.E.2d 461 (1983). "Statute providing for sealing of record of a person convicted for possession of certain controlled substances does not preclude use by a chief of police...of departmental records which are not public records, maintained by police and other law enforcement agencies."

Commonwealth v. Boe, 456 Mass. 337 (2010). A judge does not have the authority "to order the Commissioner of Probation (commissioner) to expunge a defendant's record where the criminal complaint was dismissed because its issuance was premised on a mistake." "Massachusetts appellate decisions have construed the unambiguous language of G.L. c. 276, § 100C, as conferring on a judge the authority, in appropriate circumstances, to order sealing, but not expungement, of the probation and court records of dismissed prosecutions." 

Commonwealth v. Doe, 420 Mass. 142, 648 N.E.2d 1255 (1995). Court provides an in-depth discussion regarding the sealing statutes, MGL c. 276 secs. 100A-C. Specifically, it clarifies the phrase "substantial justice," which is used in MGL c.276 sec.100C as follows: "the value of sealing to the defendant [must] clearly outweigh the constitutionally-based value of the record remaining open to society." Id., at 151.

Commonwealth v. Gavin G., 437 Mass. 470 (2002). While Juvenile Court judges have the authority to order expungement of police records, they do not have authority to order expungement of probation records.

Commonwealth v. Moe, 463 Mass. 370 (2012). Relying on Comm. v. Boe, above, court ruled that a judge lacked the authority to expunge a criminal record, even where it was the result of a fraud on the court.

Commonwealth v. S.M.F., 40 Mass.App.Ct. 42, 660 N.E.2d 701 (1996). "When statute governing sealing of certain criminal records is applicable, exercise of judicial power of expungement is no longer within authority of judge, but, when statute or other confidentiality statutes are not applicable, trial courts may invoke their inherent power to order expungement of criminal records."

CORI Law Changes Effective May 4, 2012 (District Court Transmittal 1083), Mass. District Court, May 2, 2012. This 8-page document "summarizes the provisions pertinent to the District Court that are effective May 4, 2012, such as changes to the sealing law and the creation of new crimes." Includes forms. Great resource!

CORI Reform in Massachusetts, Boston Worker's Alliance, 2010. Includes great chart summarizing differences between old and new criminal records laws.

A Guide to Public Access, Sealing and Expungement of District Court Records, Mass. District Court, Sept. 2013. Includes information on what records can be sealed or expunged, procedural information and forms.

Sealing Juvenile Records, Children's Law Center. Explains the process of having a juvenile record sealed.

Sealing My CORI, Mass. Legal Help. Provides a clear explanation of the ways a criminal record may be sealed and how to do it. Includes forms when possible, and directions on how to obtain forms that cannot be downloaded.

Correcting A Criminal Record

MGL c.6, s.175. "Subject to appropriation, the department shall provide assistance to individuals that have requested assistance to correct inaccurate or incomplete criminal offender record information. Such assistance shall include but not be limited to cooperation with appropriate entities to correct, modify or appropriately supplement criminal offender record information that has been determined to be inaccurate or incomplete." Effective in May 2012.

Information Concerning the Process in Correcting a Criminal Record, Dept. of Criminal Justice Information Services, 2012. Explains what to do if your criminal record appears incorrect, such as when a case appears open but is actually closed, a disposition is listed incorrectly, or you are the victim of identity theft.

Mistakes on CORIs, Mass. Legal Help. In plain English, describes the process of correcting two types of mistakes: information about you that is incorrect, or information that is not about you.

Print Resources

Crime and Consequence: The Collateral Effects of Criminal Conduct, MCLE, 2009. Covers issues concerning housing, employment, immigration, sealing records and more.

Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI): Barriers to Re-Entry for Ex-Offenders , MCLE no. 2005-31027-25, 2005.

"Judicial Expunction of Criminal Record of Convicted Adult", 11 ALR 4th 956.

Massachusetts Criminal Record Information (CORI) Law, MCLE, 2012. Includes How to obtain records, employer access, correcting errors, sealing, immigration, juvenile records, motor vehicle issues, tenants denied housing, domestic violence.

Massachusetts Practice, vol. 18A (Municipal Law and Practice, 5th ed.), West, 2006 with supplement, sec. 21.37; vol. 42 (Criminal Defense Motions, 3rd ed.), West, 2003 with supplement, sec. 3.2, 4.22 through 4.26, and 6.3 through 6.5; vol. 39 (Administrative Law and Practice), West, 1986 with supplement, sec. 1278 through 1294; and vol. 45 (Employment Law, 2nd ed.), West, 2003 with supplement, sec. 13.16 (includes forms).

State Agencies


Department of Criminal Justice Information Services
200 Arlington St., Suite 2200
Chelsea MA 02150
(617) 660-4600

According to its own web site, the board "serves as the hub of information services for the law enforcement and criminal justice communities."

Office of the Commissioner of Probation (OCP).
One Ashburton Place, Room 405
Boston MA 02108
(617) 727-5300