Sealing Multiple Criminal Records Revised

Massachusetts Law Updates 2014-10-03

Boston Municipal Court Standing Order 1-09, regarding petitions to seal multiple criminal records, has been revised in light of a recent SJC decision in Commonwealth v. Pon, SJC-11542 (August 15, 2014). The Court in this case announced that a new substantive standard is necessary to achieve the legislative purpose of discretionary sealing and modified the procedure currently in place for reviewing petitions for sealing.  This Standing Order established the procedures to be followed by all court divisions of this Department in those instances when a person seeks to seal three or more criminal records from two or more court divisions within this Department where a dismissal or nolle prosequi or finding of no probable cause has been entered, or the defendant was found not guilty.  In addition, the Court did away with the two-step hearing process required when a defendant files a petition for sealing under G. L. c. 276, § 100C. Now, where a defendant files a petition and accompanying documents setting forth facts that demonstrate good cause for overriding the presumption of public access to court records, a judge may determine on the pleadings whether a prima facie showing has been made. If such a showing is made, the petition should proceed to a hearing on the merits. Notice of the hearing must be provided to the public and other interested parties. After hearing the arguments and balancing the interests at stake, if the judge is satisfied that good cause merits sealing, the judge must make "specific findings on the record setting forth the interests considered by the judge and the reasons for the order directing that such sealing occur." See our webpage on "Massachusetts Law About Criminal Records."