Massachusetts Misdemeanors

Misdemeanors in Massachusetts

Felonies and misdemeanors are defined in Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 274, Section 1. A felony is any crime punishable by death or imprisonment in a state prison. All other offenses are classified as misdemeanors. This is not to say that any crime with the potential for imprisonment is automatically a felony. Because Massachusetts has state prisons, houses of correction, and county jails, misdemeanors can result in imprisonment in one of the latter two facilities.

In Massachusetts, crimes are classified as misdemeanors based on the maximum statutory penalty of incarceration associated with that crime. If the maximum statutory penalty is more than six months in prison, the crime is classified as a level two misdemeanor. If the maximum penalty is six months or less, the offense is classified as a level one misdemeanor.

Can I have a misdemeanor removed from my record?

There is no law in Massachusetts that allows for the abolition of a conviction. However, if an applicant meets certain criteria, his or her record may be sealed. This allows the person to state in an application for private or public employment that there have been no convictions, but the offense will still be made available to the court in the event of a subsequent conviction or probation.

To be eligible for record sealing, the applicant must have had all proceedings related to the misdemeanor—including probation—completed at least ten years prior to the request. In addition, the applicant may not have been convicted of any criminal offense in the ten years preceding the request, with the exception of motor vehicle offenses where the penalty did not exceed a fine of fifty dollars. Firearms violations, on the other hand, cannot be expunged in Massachusetts.

Any offense that was a felony when the applicant was convicted but has since become a misdemeanor shall be treated as a misdemeanor for the purposes of sealing the applicant’s record. Similarly, any misdemeanor that is no longer a crime is immediately eligible for sealing.

What if I was convicted while under the age of 18?If you were convicted as a juvenile, you must wait three years for your records to be sealed. You must have stayed out of trouble during that time, with no delinquency adjudications, and you cannot have been found guilty of other crimes. The sealed record of a juvenile, like the sealed record of an adult, may not be used to disqualify the person from employment, but it may be used for sentencing in the event of subsequent offenses.

Is driving under the influence a misdemeanor or a felony?

DUI offenses in Massachusetts face escalating penalties. The first offense is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine ranging from $500 to $5,000 and up to two and a half years in jail. The second offense is also a misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment for 30 to 60 days, but no more than two and a half years, and fines ranging from $600 to $6,000. A third offense carries a mandatory minimum of 150 days in state prison and a fine ranging from $1,000 to $15,000.

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