CORI ALERT FOR PEOPLE TRYING TO SEAL CRIMINAL RECORDS
Greater Boston Legal Services won an appeal on August 15, 2014 where the Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) made it easier to seal criminal records in court.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE NEW STANDARD
- If you are going to court to seal your records, the new law applies to your case. You now only have to prove “good cause” to seal your record. The old standard based on the public’s First Amendment right to see your records is thrown out.
- The new standard applies to court cases filed to seal criminal cases that ended in a non-conviction such as a dismissed case or a case that ended in a nolle prosequi (the D.A. dropped the case).
- If a judge denied your petition to seal your records in the past, you can file a new petition and ask a judge to seal the cases under the new law.
FACTORS JUDGES MUST NOW CONSIDER
To show there is “good cause” to seal records, there must be a “credible” evidence of a “disadvantage” at the present time or in the foreseeable future related to your CORI. Things that a judge can consider are:
- You were denied a job or are at risk of unemployment or underemployment related to your CORI;
- You have trouble getting housing, or are homeless, or at risk of homelessness related to CORI;
- Employers use CORI in your present occupation or an occupation you’d like to have;
- CORI reduces opportunities for advancement (promotion, internship, better/ higher paying job);
- You and/or your family are on public assistance despite your efforts to get a job;
- You have trouble volunteering or doing community activities due to CORI;
- A lot of time has passed since the case was filed against you;
- You are sober and have made efforts to rehabilitate yourself;
- You have made efforts toward self-improvement (classes, programs, GED, degree, certificate.) ;
- You do volunteer work and/or other work to help in your community;
- You successfully completed probation in your case(s);
- You have had no further contact with the criminal justice system;
- You have other evidence of rehabilitation from the date of the offense or dismissal;
- Your situation at the time of the offense should be considered (e.g. you were a teenager);
- There is stigma or stereotypes related to the case that hurts your chances to get a job, etc.; and
- The reason for dismissal or nolle prosequi and other information relevant to sealing your case(s).
Greater Boston Legal Services will post more info on the masslegalhelp.org and masslegalservices websites in the future.
Download and print out the information here:
If you have a CORI:CORI Alerts for Clients and Pro Se Parties (PDF)
For advocates: CORI Alerts for Advocates (PDF)
CORI REFORM ALERT
If you sent in a petition to seal your criminal records by mail in May, 2012 and your petition was denied, it may have been a mistake.
Here are the facts:
CORI reform changed the law. On and after May 4, 2012, if a case was
closed by the court, having been on probation or parole for the case no
longer adds extra time to the waiting period to seal the case. Waiting
periods are now 5 years for a misdemeanor and 10 years for a felony.
The Commissioner of Probation denied lots of petitions by mistake by
treating probation or parole as a reason to add extra time to the waiting
period in May, 2012. This was a mistake.
You can fix the problem if your petition got denied for this reason by:
filling out and sending (or dropping off) a new petition to seal at the
Office of the Commissioner of Probation, One Ashburton Place, Room
405, Boston, MA 02108. You can get the form on the internet at:
by sending a letter to the Commissioner of Probation asking him to fix
the mistake AND a phone number to call you AND a copy of all the
paperwork you got rejecting your petition. The address is:
Commissioner of Probation at One Ashburton Place, Room 405, Boston,
Be sure to do this quickly if you need your cases sealed in a hurry. There
is a backlog and delays in sealing cases by mail because so many people
requested sealing of their cases after the law changed on May 4.
For more information, you can call Legal Advocacy Resource Center (LARC)
or Greater Boston Legal Services (GBLS) at 617-603-1700 and 617-371-1234.
CORI & EMPLOYMENT
Courtesy of ACLU of Massachusetts www.aclum.org)
CORI Access Online – iCORI
Employers can now access CORI online, practically instantaneously.
All employers can register and have access to the new iCORI system administered by the Department of Criminal Justice Information Services (DCJIS). They no longer need to receive special certification from the state.
Employers must get written authorization from the CORI subject to do a CORI check.
Different Levels of Access
Most employers get limited “Standard Access” to CORI. This is very different from the unlimited access that law enforcement gets. (See below for explanation).
Statutes give greater access for fields like banking, insurance, security, and hospital jobs.
For positions involving work with children and the elderly, employers are statutorily authorized – or, in some cases, mandated – to access “all available CORI,” which includes non-convictions and youthful offender records. “All available CORI” does not include sealed records.
Law enforcement receives unlimited access to all CORI, including sealed records.
For a summary of the various access categories, see: www.mass.gov/eopss/docs/chsb/summary-of-levels-of-cori-access-with-requestor-types-20125.pdf.
Standard Access – What does the employer get?
No non-conviction info
Pending cases, including CWOFs (but dismissed CWOFs are treated as non-convictions)
Misdemeanor convictions under 5 years old*
Felony convictions under 10 years old*
Permanent access for murder, manslaughter, and sex offense convictions.
Youthful Offender records only when the person was “adjudicated as an adult” (given an adult sentence); not juvenile records
* Clock begins at release from incarceration or custody. If the sentence does not include incarceration, the clock begins at the time of disposition (conclusion of court proceedings). Intervening convictions reset the clock.
Private Background Checks:
Employers may choose to get criminal record information from private credit reporting agencies (CRAs) instead of from the state. Private criminal history reports are not limited in scope; they may contain any information available from a courthouse or other public source, including arrest records or very old convictions. Sealing old records (see info on reverse) may reduce the likelihood they will appear on private background check reports.
ACLU of Massachusetts || www.aclum.org
THE JOB APPLICATION PROCESS
Employers in MA with six or more employees may not ask about an applicant’s criminal history on an initial written job application, unless conviction information is required for a particular job by federal or state law.
Violations should be reported to the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD).
National and international employers using standardized applications must include a disclaimer indicating that MA applicants do not need to answer questions about criminal history. (See sample, right).
At an interview or later, an employer may ask about an applicant’s history of convictions, but may not inquire about arrests that did not result in conviction, sealed records, juvenile offenses, misdemeanors more than 5 years old, or a first conviction for any of the following: drunkenness, simple assault, speeding, minor traffic violations, affray, or disturbing the peace.
Due Process for Adverse Decisions:
An employer must provide a copy of any criminal record information in the employer’s possession – whether official CORI from the state or information from any other source — before questioning an applicant about her record or making an adverse decision. This is intended to give the applicant an opportunity to dispute the accuracy of the information.
KNOW YOUR RIGHTS
- An employer can only check your CORI with your written approval.
- To police the system, a CORI subject can conduct a free “self-audit” (report on who has accessed your CORI) every 90 days
- Unauthorized access is a criminal offense subject to imprisonment and fines.
- CORI reports should be accurate
- CORI subjects have a right to inspect and obtain a copy of their own records.
- See DCJIS guidance on how to correct inaccurate information:www.mass.gov/eopss/docs/chsb/cori-process-correcting-criminal-record.pdf.
- CORI subjects can seal timed-out convictions (5-year-old misdemeanors; 10-year-old felonies. Time runs from release or, if sentence did not include incarceration, from conviction).
- Sealing means the information is removed from court and probation records, and a job applicant can say she has “no record.”
- Sealing cannot make a record completely disappear. The information may still be accessible to employers through old news articles or from private background check companies that gathered the information before the record was sealed.
- Sealing does not occur automatically, but it’s easy to do. To seal a record, complete this form from the Office of the Commissioner of Probation:http://www.mass.gov/courts/probation/sealingpetition.pdf.
MASSACHUSETTS APPLICANTS ONLY:
Under Massachusetts law, an employer is prohibited from making written, pre-employment inquiries of an applicant about his or her criminal history. MASSACHUSETTS APPLICANTS SHOULD NOT RESPOND TO ANY OF THE QUESTIONS SEEKING CRIMINAL RECORD INFORMATION.
Links to More Information About the New CORI Law:
2010 CORI Reform Explained — How the Law is Changing, and When
Department of Criminal justice Information Services (DCJIS)- CORI Update
Mass. Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD)- Ban the Box Factsheet
Mass. Legal Services – The CORI Reader
Mass. Legal Help – Criminal Offender record Information