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Massachusetts Court Records

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Massachusetts Arrest Records

A Massachusetts arrest record contains information about the circumstances leading to the arrest of an individual suspected of committing a crime.

When there is sufficient reason to believe that an individual has committed a crime or has been witnessed committing a crime, the offender is placed under arrest. After apprehension, arrestees are customarily taken through a booking process, during which their personal information, physical characteristics, details of the alleged offense, and a photographic record (commonly referred to as a mugshot) are documented. It is through this procedure that an official Massachusetts arrest record is generated. These records are then stored by the law enforcement agency that made the arrest. 

The Massachusetts judicial system frequently references arrest records during legal proceedings, aiding in the fair adjudication of cases.

The 2022 Crime Statistics released by the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security (EOPSS) reported a total of 85,242 arrests. In the category of offenses against persons, 87% of arrests were for aggravated assault, while 6.3% were for sexual assault, and 6.1% were for robbery. Regarding crimes against properties, the statistics revealed that 38.6% of arrests were related to all other larceny, 33.6% were for burglary/breaking and entering, and 13.3% were for motor vehicle theft.

Comparing these figures to the 2021 data, which recorded a total of 82,273 arrests, a clear pattern emerges. In 2021, 84.8% of arrests were for aggravated assault, 7.9% for robbery, and 6.5% for sexual assault.

The statistics demonstrate a consistent increase in the number of arrests, with a dip in 2020 followed by an upturn in subsequent years. Notably, between 2021 and 2022, while there was an overall increase in the total number of arrests, there was a decline in arrests for sexual assault and robbery.  

Are Arrest Records Public in Massachusetts?

Yes, following Part I, Title X, Chapter 66, Section 10 of the General Law and the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), members of the public have the right to obtain public records, including Massachusetts arrest records. Moreover, Part I, Title II, Chapter 6, Section 172 of the General Law also enables individuals to request access to criminal records, which include arrest records.

Chapter 66, Section 10 GL also delineates the procedure for making these records available to interested individuals. This procedure binds all Records Access Officers (RAOs) unless the record in question is classified.  

While arrest records are generally considered public and available to residents, certain records or specific details are sealed and can only be accessed by authorized individuals (GL c. 4, § 7(26)). These may include:

  • Classified information for security reasons
  • Details containing financial or trade secrets
  • Arrest records involving a juvenile
  • Information limited to officials representing the justice system
  • Information whose access could endanger a person's life  

What is Included in Massachusetts Arrest Records?

In Massachusetts, an arrest record will typically feature the following details:

  • Subject information including name, date of birth, last known address, contact number, and any aliases used;
  • The physical characteristics of the suspect or offender, including their sex, race, height, weight, eye color, and hair color. This may also include identifying features like tattoos, scars, or birthmarks;
  • Description of the incident, particularly if the arresting officer was an eyewitness. This encompasses a summary of the event that led to the arrest as well as the detainees response to be being arrested;
  • Details of criminal charges (if applicable);
  • Arrest location and date, including the identity of the arresting officer;
  • Photographs, fingerprints, information about bail, and the scheduled court date. 

Find Public Arrest Records in Massachusetts

Public arrest records in Massachusetts can be accessed through various means, depending on the department responsible for generating and maintaining the records. Typically, arrest records are included within criminal or case records and can be obtained from the Office of the Sheriff, Department of Police, or courthouse. Usually, the initial step in conducting a search would be to contact the Sheriff's office or the police department, as these are the entities responsible for conducting arrests. Once the relevant department that maintains arrest records for the county is identified, the inquirer can proceed to request the record from that agency. 

For instance, in Norfolk County, individuals seeking arrest records should direct their inquiries to the Police department rather than the Sheriff's office. Alternatively, requesters can submit a public records request to the Commissioner Records Access Officer (RAO). Conversely, in Berkshire County, individuals can request arrest records from the Sheriff's office.

In some counties, requesters can complete an online request form or print, fill out, and mail a written request; in others, they can contact the RAO directly by phone. Inquirers are advised to review the department's website for specific instructions on how to request a record. Some counties make arrest information available on the Sheriff's office or the Department of Police website. For instance, the Pittsfield police department publishes arrest records on its web page.  

Inquirers may also access arrest records in a case file maintained by courts by making online, mail, or in-person requests to the concerned clerk of courts. However, not all cases may be available online, and speaking with a clerk directly will provide better clarity on obtaining arrest records from case files. 

Whatever the case, requesters can expect to access public arrest records (at the county level) for free. Inquirers are only required to pay a fee if they request physical copies of the record.

Another option for accessing criminal records is through iCORI. Inquirers with a government-approved ID can utilize the online option, while those without IDs must submit requests via mail. The personal records search costs $25, while an open access request costs $50, with processing taking up to 10 business days. The personal and open request forms can be found on the Department of Criminal Justice Information Services website. Requests can be mailed to the following address:

Department of Criminal Justice Information Services

200 Arlington Street

Suite 2200, Chelsea, MA 02150

Phone: (617) 660-4640  

Certain arrest information deemed confidential by law is not accessible to the general public. In cases where access to such records is necessary, individuals must obtain a subpoena, which can be issued by a justice of the peace, a clerk of a circuit court, or a notary public. Subpoenas are usually served by a party not involved in the case. There is usually a service fee for serving a subpoena, and the amount depends on the location of the custodian of the record.  

How to Lookup Arrest Records Online in Massachusetts

Individuals seeking remote access to Massachusetts arrest records may access them from government agencies or private (third-party) websites or repositories.

Third-party websites offer records at the national level, broadening the search scope and increasing the likelihood of finding a report, especially when detailed information is lacking. It's important to note that the information available may vary from site to site as these repositories rely on different sources. Therefore, inquirers may need to verify the details of the record.

Inquirers may also visit the official websites of the record custodians, as some counties post a list of arrestees on their web pages. These rosters, usually published by the local Sheriff's office or police department, provide information on persons currently incarcerated in their respective judicial districts. They offer up-to-date information on individuals who are in jail, allowing concerned parties to verify an individual's confinement status.   

How Long Do Arrests Stay on Your Record in Massachusetts?

Permanently. Once a Massachusetts arrest record is acquired/generated, it remains accessible to the public indefinitely unless it is expunged or sealed. Notwithstanding, an arrest record may not be available to the public when the record's custodian deems it obsolete, or it has surpassed the department's retention limit, at which point they are destroyed. Typically, in Massachusetts, it is improbable for arrest records to be destroyed after reaching a retention limit. 

Expunge an Arrest Record in Massachusetts

Massachusetts does not have specific statutes for the expungement or sealing of arrest records. However, there are laws governing the expunction and sealing of criminal records, which include arrest records. Interested persons may petition for expungement and apply to seal both conviction and non-conviction cases.

The legal framework for sealing a conviction is outlined in MGL c. 276, § 100A. This provision allows applicants to request the Massachusetts Probation Service (MPS) to seal their records under specific conditions:

  • For misdemeanor cases, the applicant can request sealing three years after completing the sentence and release;
  • For felony cases, the applicant can apply for sealing after maintaining good behavior for seven years following the sentence completion.

Conversely, sealing records of cases where an individual was acquitted follows the guidelines outlined in MGL c. 276, § 100C. To request the sealing of these records, the following conditions must be met:

  • The jury's verdict was 'not guilty'
  • The court found no probable cause
  • The jury returns no bill
  • The case was dismissed without probation
  • In cases where a nolle prosequi was entered (indicating no further prosecution by the prosecutor) 

There is no associated fee for this process.

Individuals from the public seeking to seal their criminal conviction records must complete the Petition to Seal Conviction Records form. In contrast, those petitioning for cases without convictions can utilize the Petition to Seal Non-Conviction Records form. Requesters can also include supporting documentation to substantiate their case for record sealing.

Moreover, individuals filing with the Boston Municipal Court (BMC) can simultaneously file three or more record dismissals and non-criminal court records from two or more BMC court divisions.

Individuals seeking to seal criminal convictions must file with the Massachusetts Probation Service (MPS). Those looking to seal non-conviction cases are required to file with the District Court. Meanwhile, for cases without convictions in the BMC, individuals need to file with the division in their vicinity. Once an individual's arrest record is sealed, it is no longer available to the public.

When it comes to expungement, the opportunity to apply typically depends on the severity of the committed crime. Time-based expungement falls under the governance of GL c.276, § 100E-100U. The eligibility criteria for this type of expungement (time based) are as follows:

  • For felony offenses, the individual must have completed their sentence at least seven years before applying, and for misdemeanors, it is three years.
  • The offense cannot be a felony violation of GL c. 265.  

The eligibility criteria for a non-time-based expungement are as follows:

  • Misuse of personal identification
  • Unauthorized usage of personal identity
  • Identity theft
  • Acts that are no longer considered criminal offenses (e.g., possessing small quantities of marijuana)
  • Errors committed by law enforcement
  • Errors made by civilian or expert witnesses
  • Errors made by court staff
  • Fraud committed against the court  

Upon having the records removed, an individual's records would no longer exist, allowing them to assert that they have never had any. 

How Do I Find Recent Arrests in Massachusetts?

To find recent arrests in Massachusetts, interested members of the public may query the Department of Police or the Sheriff's Office. Inquirers may visit the office in person, send inquiries via mail, or access the information remotely, particularly in counties where this information is available online. It is typical for details about new arrestees, including inmate information, to be published online. Whatever the case, the requester will need to provide information about the subject or record holder with which to facilitate the search. In most cases, a first name, birth date, and the date of the arrest will be sufficient. However, additional information may be required depending on the complexity of the search and the nature of the custodian's database.

Are Massachusetts Arrest Records Free?

Yes, interested members of the public may access Massachusetts records free in some cases. Access to arrest logs or rosters from the Sheriff's office or the Department of Police is free. The public can review arrest records publications online or visit the agency's offices and request to inspect the records. However, requesters will be charged a nominal fee to obtain physical copies of the document if required.

Inquirers also have the choice to search for arrest records on third-party websites. However, a typical third-party site will provide limited information for free and request payment for more extensive searches.

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Massachusetts Arrest Records