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Massachusetts Court Records

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Felony, Infractions, and Misdemeanors in Massachusetts

Offenses in Massachusetts can be a felony, misdemeanor, or an infraction, depending on the gravity of the offense. Massachusetts law defines felonies as all crimes that can be punished by death or a jail term at a state prison. All other offenses, apart from traffic offenses, are misdemeanors. Infractions are minor violations that do not attract a jail term. They are majorly traffic violations and a fine is usually the penalty for them. Summarily, Massachusetts state crimes are tried on the basis of the aforementioned classification

What is a felony in Massachusetts?

Felonies are very grievous offenses that could lead to the offender spending time at a state prison. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts, unlike other states, does not classify felonies and accompanying sentences according to the gravity of the offense. What Massachusetts has is a statute for different criminal offenses that spells out the penalties for each offense.

The Massachusetts judicial system also uses the kind of court hearing a case to differentiate between a felony and a misdemeanor. The trial of an offense with a penalty of only imprisonment at the state prison can only be heard at the state superior court. Cases of other offenses with accompanying penalties that include jail term at a house of correction can be heard at a district court. Some felonies carry the punishment at imprisonment at either state prison or a house of correction. The trials of these types of felonies may also be heard at a district court since there is the house of correction penalty attached to them.

What are some examples of felonies in Massachusetts?

Very severe crimes like murder and attempted murder, rape and sexual assault, arson, assault with a dangerous weapon, kidnapping, and vehicular manslaughter are all examples of felony offenses in Massachusetts. The different offenses and possible penalties for each are:

  • Murder: This could be first degree, second degree, or felony murder, as the case may be. For first degree murder, Massachusetts law prescribes life imprisonment at a state prison without the benefit of parole. For second degree murder, the punishment is life imprisonment but there is the possibility of probation after a certain number of years fixed by the court has been served.
  • Rape: Chapter 265, Section 22 of the Massachusetts General Laws spell out a maximum penalty of life imprisonment at a state prison or any number of years given by the judge. For any individual that commits rape with body injuries to the victim. Rape that does not cause body injuries carries a maximum penalty of 20 years.
  • Stalking: Massachusetts laws state that an individual found guilty of stalking is liable to a jail term at a state prison for a period that should not be more than 5 years or a fine that should not be more than $1,000. Alternatively, the guilty person may also be imprisoned at the house of correction for a period, not more than 2 ½ years. A combination of the fine and any type of imprisonment described earlier is also lawful.
  • Armed Robbery: The law grants the court the power to sentence an offender of this crime to the maximum penalty of life imprisonment at a state prison or for any number of years the court decides to.
  • Larceny: Stealing goods or property worth above $1,200 is liable to a time in the state prison for a period that is not more than 5 years. The law provides an alternative punishment of a fine for an amount, not more than $25,000 and imprisonment in jail for a period, not more than 2 years.
  • Kidnapping: Drugging a victim and kidnapping the victim to extort money or valuables is, by law, liable to imprisonment at the state prison for life or any number of years decided by the court but not less than 15 years.
  • Arson: Burning a house people are domiciled in is liable to a time in the state prison for a period, not more than 20 years. Alternatively, the Massachusetts General Laws prescribe imprisonment in jail or house of correction for a period that is not more than 2 ½ years or the payment of a fine that should not be more than $10,000. Paying a fine and also serving either of the types of imprisonment is also acceptable to the law.
  • Vehicular Manslaughter: Vehicular manslaughter carries a penalty of imprisonment at the state prison for a period that should not be less than 5 years but should not exceed 20 years. The law also prescribes a fine that should not be more than $25,000.

Massachusetts laws give the time frame within which a felony case may be filed. If that number of years passes without that crime being prosecuted at the court, it may never be brought up again for trial. Different offenses have different time limits under the criminal statute of limitations. For example, Robbery or intent to rob or murder has a 10-year limit within which it must have been investigated and brought to court. Rape or abuse of a child has a 15-year limit while the rape of any other person is pegged at 6 years. Larceny, arson, and kidnapping all have their limit set at 6 years. Murder is the only felony case that has no time limit. It can be investigated and brought to court at any time.

Can I get a Felony Removed from a Court Record in Massachusetts?

In the commonwealth of Massachusetts, a felony can be removed from a court record by sealing or by expunging such records. Expunging a record goes deeper than just sealing it and can be done in two ways. Time-based expungement, according to Massachusetts laws, has some stringent criteria that include proof that the offense was committed as a juvenile and did not result in death or serious bodily injury. The lapse of time given before a petitioner can file for expungement of a felony from a court record is 7 years after the petitioner must have served the entire sentence for the felony committed. The petitioner must also not have any other criminal case on file. To qualify for a non-time-based expungement, the petitioner must prove that a case of false or stolen identity was involved. A proof that error was made by law enforcement or by the court employees and a proof that expunging the record will be in the interest of justice will also be required.

If the petitioner is not a citizen, it is not advisable to have felony records expunged until the petitioner has multiple records of the particular case that will be expunged. This is especially true for a non-time-based expungement that the petitioner was found not guilty or the case was discontinued by the prosecution. The reason for this is that there will not be any record of that particular case left after expungement except for an FBI record that will not show the outcome of the case. This might lead to a deportation if the petitioner cannot prove that the case was ruled in their favor.

Is expungement the same as sealing court records in Massachusetts?

Expungement is not the same as sealing court records in Massachusetts. After a record has been sealed, members of the public do not have access to it but law enforcement agencies have full access to those records. Even members of the public can access those records once they have been granted authorization by the court. However, expungement means the record will be permanently destroyed and no other state, municipal, or county agencies will have access to those records. It is a more thorough cleanup than just a sealing of the court records.

How Long Does a Felony Stay on Your Record in Massachusetts?

A felony record stays on the offender’s record until the offender gets it sealed or expunged. A felony record can be sealed 7 years after the completion of the sentence attached to that offense. A conviction for a sex offense that required the offender registering as a sex offender cannot be sealed until after 15 years after the completion of the sentence. This means it will be on the offender’s record for 15 years till it gets sealed. An offender that was found guilty of bribing an elected official can never be sealed. It will be on the offender’s record forever.

For cases that the defendant was found not guilty or a case that was eventually dismissed or one in which prosecution discontinued the trial may be sealed by a judge immediately without any waiting period.

What is a Misdemeanor in Massachusetts?

Misdemeanors in Massachusetts are crimes that do not carry the maximum penalty of serving time at a state prison or death. They are not as grievous as felonies but are still serious offense on their own. The maximum penalty for a misdemeanor is usually 2½ years at the house of correction or fines. They are mostly heard at the district court because the penalty for committing misdemeanor offenses usually does not include the death penalty or time at the state prison. Only the superior court has the power to give such sentences for felony cases. There is no classification of misdemeanors in different classes in Massachusetts. Individual crimes are mentioned in the general laws and maximum penalties for each crime are spelt out in the statutes.

What are some examples of Misdemeanors in Massachusetts?

Example of some misdemeanor offenses and the maximum penalties they carry include:

  • Assault and Battery: The General Laws set the maximum penalty for committing assault and battery at 2½ years at the house of correction or a fine that should not exceed $1,000.
  • Operating Under the Influence (OUI): The maximum penalty for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs in Massachusetts laws is imprisonment for 30 months or a fine that should not be less $500 nor should it be more than $5,000. Both fine and imprisonment may also be given as punishment.
  • Trespassing: Disobeying a trespassing order attracts a penalty of a fine that should not be more than $100 or imprisonment for not more than 30 days. A punishment of both fine and imprisonment is also legal according to the law.
  • Drug Possession: Unlawful possession of heroin for the first time attracts a maximum penalty of imprisonment at the house of correction for not more than 2½ years or by a fine that should not exceed $2,000 or both, depending on the discretion of the court. Subsequent commission of this crime makes it a felony.
  • Larceny: Theft of goods or properties whose worth is not up to $1,200 is a misdemeanor in Massachusetts Laws. The penalty for such crime is imprisonment in jail for a period that should not exceed 12 months or a fine that should not exceed $1,500.
  • Solicitation of prostitutes: Chapter 272, Section 8 of the Massachusetts General Laws spell out a penalty of a jail term at the house of correction for a period that should not exceed 30 months. Alternatively, a fine not less than $1,000 nor should it be more than $5,000 could also be meted out as punishment or both fine and imprisonment.
  • Impersonating a Police Officer: Impersonating a police officer attracts a penalty of a fine that should not be more than $400 or imprisonment for not more than a year.

Misdemeanors in Massachusetts, just as it is in the case of felonies, also have a criminal statute of limitations. This means that if that time limit set for the crime to be prosecuted has passed, it will remain buried forever. Generally, misdemeanors have the criminal statute of limitation set at 6 years.

Can I Get a Misdemeanor Removed from a Record in Massachusetts?

Yes, misdemeanors can be removed from a record 3 years after the completion of the entire sentence in Massachusetts. The offender must, however, not have any other criminal record except for vehicle offenses that their penalty does not exceed $50. Those who were later found to be falsely accused or found to be a victim of stolen identity may also file for the expunging of that record. Expunging it makes it look like the conviction never happened as there will be no record of it anywhere. Sealing the record, on the other hand, prohibits members of the public from having access to the record while government agencies have access. It still gives the offender the right to deny ever having been convicted if asked by a future employer or property owner. That misdemeanor conviction will not come up in background checks after sealing.

Can a DUI Be Expunged in Massachusetts?

It is extremely difficult to have an Operating Under the Influence (OUI) conviction expunged or even sealed in Massachusetts. One scenario where an OUI conviction can be expunged is when it can be proven that a case of identity theft occurred that led to the conviction. The other instance is when the offense happened when the offender was a minor and it was not charged due to lack of evidence. Having the OUI record sealed may be possible if the defendant was found not guilty or the case was either discontinued or dismissed. A waiting period will elapse after which it will be possible to apply for the sealing of the charge. There is still no guarantee that the court will rule for the sealing of the record but if granted, it will be sealed and members of the public will not see that charge in any criminal history record check.

What constitutes an Infraction in Massachusetts?

Infractions are mostly light traffic-related violations. They do not attract a criminal charge and only tickets are issued to the offender. An offender has 20 days to clear any ticket received but if any issued ticket is seen as unfair, the offender can fight it in court in front of a judge. Getting more than 3 speeding tickets within 30 days may lead to a loss of license. It is different from a felony or misdemeanor in that a jail term is usually not stipulated as punishment for committing an infraction. Fines are enough.

What are some examples of Infractions in Massachusetts?

Examples of some common infractions include:

  • Speeding
  • Disobeying a traffic sign
  • Not keeping right when turning right
  • Driving in the “breakdown” lane
  • Driving without brakes
  • Not stopping for the blind pedestrian
  • Not stopping at a toll booth
  • Failure to use a child restraint
  • Using headphones while driving
  • Driving without horns
  • Driving without complete mirrors
  • Offensive noise
  • Turning at places that U-turns have been prohibited

Can Infractions be Expunged from a Massachusetts Criminal Court Record?

There is no need to expunge infractions from a Massachusetts criminal record because they are mere civil offenses and do not appear on the criminal record. Infractions, however, may lead to the revocation of the learner’s permit or driving license. This suspension remains on a license till the requirements set to clear the ticket are met and the suspension is lifted.

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