By Adam D. Schmaelzle, Esq.
How can you represent a person like that? How do you sleep at night, knowing you kept a criminal out of jail, and put him or her back on the streets? These are the types of questions criminal defense attorneys get all the time. But if you ask a group of passionate criminal defense attorneys why they do what they do, you would probably hear a similar answer. Because the American justice system is adversarial, and criminal defense is equally as important as criminal prosecution. If you look at the Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution, you will see the section where our founding fathers ensured our rights as U.S citizens to “have the assistance of counsel for his defense”. That may not always be the most popular opinion, but if you think about it, a criminal defense attorney can sometimes be the one thing that stands between a person and their freedom. For some people however, loosing their freedom can take many forms. It could mean spending a period of their lives in a detention facility, or it could be the limitations they endure as a result of their criminal record. That is where a criminal defense attorney can help safeguard a person’s freedom beyond the proceedings that follow a formal criminal accusation.
If you have ever been charged with a crime in state or federal court in Massachusetts, you will have a Massachusetts CORI (Criminal Offender Record Information). These reports can be extremely useful to both public and private agencies. For instance, if you are a parent and you are looking for someone to help take care of your children, you can screen out potentially dangerous criminal offenders by requesting a CORI report of potential child-care providers. If you are elderly or disabled and looking for a home health aid, you can also request a CORI of potential helpers.
As helpful as these reports can be, they can also be very harmful. For instance, CORI reports are not always accurate. Many times, a simple mistake in a CORI report can keep a person from obtaining subsidized housing, getting a loan or getting a certain job. Moreover, cases that were dismissed, or cases where a person was found “not guilty” will appear in a CORI report.
It’s true that a CORI report can help weed out dangerous ex-offenders, but if a person was charged with a crime, and was found “not guilty”, is it fair to hold them to the same standard as a person who was found guilty of that same crime? What about individuals who were charged with some sort of misdemeanor ten years ago? Should we still consider them a “dangerous ex-offender” and include that charge on their CORI report? Think of the parent whose misdemeanor case was dismissed eight years ago but was denied the right to volunteer at his/her child’s school or sporting event. Even worse, think of the person who was unable to have a child but was denied the right to adopt a child for the same reason. These are all potential issues a Massachusetts resident can run into if they have a CORI report and do not take proper action.
So what can you do? Well, for starters, you should probably see your CORI report. You can get it either online or by mail for $25.00 at the link I posted below. If you believe there is a mistake in your CORI, the probation office where the case was heard might be able to correct it. Otherwise you may have to file a petition with the court. If your CORI report is damaging to you, you may be able to seal it, meaning those charges will no longer appear on your CORI report, and it will show that you have no criminal history. Keep in mind that agencies within the criminal justice system will still be able to see those charges, but employers, landlords, etc. will not. Also remember that CORI pertains only to criminal charges in Massachusetts. If you have charges out of state, you will have to contact that state to find out how to deal with those reports.
Sealing a record rarely happens automatically, and unlike other states, where one can have their record expunged, sealing or correcting your CORI report can sometimes make all the difference
If you would like to learn more about sealing CORI reports, click the link below, or Call Adam D. Schmaelzle, Attorney at Law at 774-314-9124.
Get Your CORI Report
Massachusetts Law about Criminal Records