Friday, March 26, 2010

Expungement of Criminal Records

Yesterday, in Comm. v. Boe, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that a judge does not have the authority "to order the Commissioner of Probation (commissioner) to expunge a defendant's record where the criminal complaint was dismissed because its issuance was premised on a mistake." "Massachusetts appellate decisions have construed the unambiguous language of G.L. c. 276, § 100C, as conferring on a judge the authority, in appropriate circumstances, to order sealing, but not expungement, of the probation and court records of dismissed prosecutions." Similarly, in 2002 the court ruled in Comm. v. Gavin G., 437 Mass. 470, that "a Juvenile Court judge lacked the authority to expunge the probation record of a juvenile."

These cases contrast with Comm. v. S.M.F., 40 Mass. App. Ct. 42 (1996), in which expungement was allowed in a case in which the person charged had assumed the identity of a wholly innocent person. "In the unique circumstances of S.M.F., where the deliberate act of prosecution was not against S.M.F., the court concluded that G.L. c. 276, § 100C, was inapplicable, and, therefore, the trial court could invoke its inherent power to expunge the criminal records under the name of S.M.F...Expungement was an appropriate remedy because the facts of the case did not place it within the categories of dispositions contemplated by the sealing statutes--criminal proceedings were never initiated against the "real" S.M.F."

More information on sealing and expungement of criminal records is available at Mass. Law About Criminal Records.