Our Locations

55 Union Street, Suite 400
Boston, MA 02108

15 Church St, Suite 105
Salem, MA 01970

What is the Difference Between a Petition to Seal vs. Expunge in Massachusetts?

sealing or expunging criminal record in the state of Massachusetts

My name is Matthew Peterson, and I am a criminal defense attorney based in Boston, Massachusetts. If you think you may want to get your criminal record sealed or expunged, I can help. It is important that you hire an attorney who is experienced in arguing motions to seal/expunge because that is one way you can set yourself up for the best chance of being successful in front of a judge. You can text or call me at 617-295-7500, or you can leave me a message on my website.

What Would Sealing or Expunging my Criminal Record Do?

Whether you were involved in a case that was dismissed, or whether you pled guilty to a criminal charge, getting your criminal record sealed or expunged may be beneficial if you plan on doing something in the future that may require a background check (CORI).  A petition to seal or expunge can be a way for your criminal record to be wiped from view from potential employers, landlords, or educational institutions.

Sealing Your Criminal Record

When you file a Petition to Seal in Massachusetts, you’re essentially seeking to conceal certain parts of your criminal record from public view. However, it’s vital to note that sealing does not include completely erasing your criminal record altogether. Instead, it restricts access to them, rendering them inaccessible to the general public, including potential employers and landlords.

In Massachusetts, certain criminal records are eligible for sealing under specific conditions, either by a judge or the commissioner of probation. This depends on a number of factors, including:

  • the nature of the offense
  • your criminal history
  • the passage of time since the completion of the sentence or probation

The process of petitioning to seal a record in Massachusetts involves several steps.

  1. You must obtain a copy of your Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) from the Massachusetts Department of Criminal Justice Information Services (DCJIS).
  2. File a Petition to Seal with the court that handled your case.
    • A hearing may be scheduled, during which the court considers various factors, including your rehabilitation efforts and the impact of sealing on public safety.

If the petition is granted, the records are sealed, providing you with a fresh start in terms of employment, housing, and other opportunities.

Expunging Your Criminal Record

When you file a Petition to Expunge in Massachusetts, you’re seeking for certain parts of your criminal record to be completely erased, as if they never even occurred. Unlike sealing, expungement eliminates any trace of the criminal record from official files.

The process of petitioning for expungement in Massachusetts is fairly complex. Expungement is a new process in Massachusetts and is only appropriate in rare circumstances.  It involves meticulous documentation, legal representation, and hearings before the court. Additionally, the burden of proof rests heavily on the petitioner to demonstrate that expungement is warranted based on the circumstances of the case.

Call Us Today! 617-295-7500

In conclusion, the main difference between getting your record sealed versus getting your record expunged, is getting your record expunged erases any trace of whatever portion of your record you petitioned for. While sealing your record merely restricts the public’s (landlords, employers) access to that part of your criminal record. If you think you may qualify for a record sealing or expungement, reach out to me today. I have an office location in Salem and Boston, Massachusetts, and I do Zoom or phone meetings as well.


Although I am an attorney, I am not your attorney.  Please do not rely on anything on this page as legal advice because any specific advice would depend on your situation.  Any results posted on this page are not guarantees of outcomes in your case.

Boston Attorney

The court system is stressful, whether you’re being charged with a crime, being sued, suing someone, or fighting for your ability to stay and work in this country. You need someone who appreciates this and can dedicate the time not only to represent you effectively in court but to guide you through the process.

Recent Articles

Contact us