Are Criminal Records Public in Massachusetts?
Criminal records in Massachusetts are public records. The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) dictates that any documents kept by any government agency in Massachusetts are public records. This means that members of the public have access to them unless otherwise stated by the law. Specific criminal records can be sealed, and information is not available at the local level if the record has been sealed or expunged. While Massachusetts criminal records vary between different individuals, most records provide general information such as the:
- Subject's full name and any known aliases
- Physical descriptors
- Current and past addresses
- Photograph or mugshot
- Current and past warrants
- Past arrests
Criminal records, considered public in the United States, are made available through some third-party aggregate sites. Searching with third-party websites is often easier as the information is not limited to geographic record availability. Information found on third-party websites can serve as a jumping-off point for parties searching for a specific record or multiple records. Typically, requesters must provide the following information to gain access to these records:
- The record subject's name, unless the subject is a juvenile.
- The record subjects' last known location, including cities, counties, and states.
Third-party websites offer these search services, but they are not government-sponsored. Availability of records may vary.
What is Considered a Criminal Record in Massachusetts?
Massachusetts criminal record provides official information about a person's criminal history. It includes data compiled and assembled from the local, county, and state jurisdictions, trial courts, appeals courts, and county and state correctional facilities. Although the standard for criminal record collection and storage varies with most counties, a large percentage of records are organized in online record depositories that are available to the public in the form of a Criminal Background Report managed by the Massachusetts Department of Criminal Justice Information Services (DCJIS).
How to Obtain Criminal Records in Massachusetts?
Criminal records are public records in Massachusetts and are accessible to the general public. Different law enforcement agencies are vested with the responsibility of managing criminal records in the state. A requester can check with the office of the clerk of court of the trial court. A criminal records search can be carried out at the state's police department or the office of the county sheriff. An on-demand court record is also possible because of the digitization of these records. A free public criminal record check might be available in Massachusetts. The disadvantage of a free public criminal record search is that it may not contain key pieces of information from the original record.
Are Arrest Records Public in Massachusetts?
Arrest records in Massachusetts are public records. Sequel to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in Massachusetts, arrest records are records created and kept by law enforcement agencies. A requester can carry out a public arrest records search either at the state level through the state police, or at the county level through the office of the county's sheriff or the office of the chief of police. Free arrest records search may be possible in the state, but an important part of the record may be concealed.
Massachusetts arrest records are among the various types of police records generated when an individual interacts with the police. Police records include arrest records, arrest warrants, incident reports, sex offender information, and police activity logs.
What is an Arrest Record in Massachusetts?
An arrest record in Massachusetts provides an official overview of a subject's arrest history. It provides information on whether an individual has been detained, booked, questioned or held for investigation in relation to a felony, misdemeanor or any other offense. Arrest records are maintained by different government agencies, including judicial administrative institutions.
What Shows Up on an Arrest Record in Massachusetts
The following information can be found in Massachusetts arrest records:
- The alleged crime's specifics
- The arrestee's personal information, such as their complete name, birth date, and fingerprints
- The arrest's date, location, and time
- The location of the detention center
- The identity of the officer who made the arrest, as well as the person who issued the warrant.
Massachusetts Arrest Warrants
Arrest warrants in Massachusetts provide law enforcement officials with the authority to arrest or detain the person(s) named in the document. Signed and issued by a judge or magistrate, a grand jury may also issue arrest warrants. Arrest warrants provide information linked to the order, such as the subject's name and the substance of the offense charged in the complaint or indictment. Arrest warrants can also serve as an active warrant search to aid investigation by the state police or any other law enforcement agencies in the state. Parties can find the following information on arrest warrants issued in Massachusetts:
- The subject's suspected criminal offense
- The issuer's name and the date on which the warrant was issued
- The warrant's expiration date (if applicable)
- The location and time of the possible arrest
- The bail/bond requirements that must be met (if applicable)
How to Lookup Massachusetts Inmate Records
The Massachusetts Department of Corrections maintains an inmate search database where a requester can look up an inmate. Massachusetts inmate records provide official information about persons detained or incarcerated in correctional facilities run by the state or county. Residents of the state can also perform an inmate search at the office of the Department Of Corrections' primary record access officer. This office is located at 50 Maple Street, Milford, MA 01757. Some of the general information provided in an inmate record includes:
- The offender's name
- Incarceration date
- Expected date of release
- Convicted offense
- Photos (mug shots)
How Do I Find Sex Offenders in Massachusetts?
Massachusetts's sex offender registry is a public sex offender registry that contains the names of persons convicted of committing a sex crime. Maintained by the Sex Offender Registry Board (SORB), it contains details of Level 2 and Level 3 offenders. It provides general information about a subject, including:
- The offender's name
- Year of birth
- Physical descriptors
- Conviction and adjudication date
- Number of convictions
- Convicted crime
Massachusetts Megan's Law is used to describe established state laws that govern the creation, maintenance, and use of a sex offender registry. Megan's Law was created after the rape and murder of 7-year-old New Jersey resident Megan Kanka by a sex offender who lived in the girl's own neighborhood.
Based on the likely recurrence of sexual offenses, it has now become a criminal offense for a sexual offender not to register either at the national sex offender registry or at the state registry. Soon after the passage of this first Megan's Law, the federal government required that all states set up sex offender registries and offer the public information about those registered. Members of the public can obtain public records or information about a sex offender by submitting a request form to the Sexual Offender Registry Board (SORB) at:
P.O. Box 392,
North Billerica, MA 01862
Understanding OUI Laws in Massachusetts?
Operating Under the Influence or an OUI in Massachusetts is a serious traffic violation. It refers to moving and non-moving violations by motorists that result in the willful disregard for public safety. Serious violations may lead to damage to property, death, or serious bodily injury. Multiple minor traffic violations may also qualify as traffic violations. A driver's ability is considered impaired at 0.08 blood alcohol content (BAC). Massachusetts also has zero tolerance for drunk driving. As such, the BAC of persons below 21 must not be more than 0.02.
Unlike most states, Massachusetts does not operate a point system, the Registry of Motor Vehicles is more interested in the number of traffic violations than the point system. However, the consequences for drunk driving or other forms of driving violations are as severe. For instance, if a driver is guilty of over-speeding within a year, such a driver's license will be suspended for at least 30 days. In the same way, if a driver is charged with a traffic violation three times within two years, such driver will be required to go for driver's training within 3 months or face an indefinite license suspension.
Any driver designated as a habitual traffic offender means that such driver has been convicted of serious traffic offenses three times within three years. The designation also includes drivers who have been convicted of up to 12 minor traffic offenses within five years. The consequence of being designated a habitual traffic offender is the revocation of a driver's license for at least four years.
Massachusetts Misdemeanors Laws: Offenses and Penalty
Misdemeanors in Massachusetts are non-indictable offenses that are generally less severe than felonies. In most states, misdemeanors are punishable by only up to one year in jail. However, a person convicted of a misdemeanor in Massachusetts may be sentenced to more than one year of incarceration in the House of Corrections, depending on the crime. Some examples of crimes that are categorized as misdemeanors include:
- Possession of controlled substances such as ecstasy, heroin, marijuana, and cocaine
- Operating under the influence (OUI)
- Disturbing the peace
- Disorderly conduct
- Shoplifting and petty theft
- Malicious property destruction
- Disorderly person
Misdemeanor vs felony in Massachusetts is determined by the sentencing. Once an offender is sentenced to death or to a state's prison, then the crime is a felony. Meanwhile, a misdemeanor is the other offense that cannot be punished by death or sentenced to a state's prison.
Massachusetts Felony Laws: Offenses and Penalties
Felonies in Massachusetts refer to any crime that carries a penalty of more than one year in a state prison or county jail. Severe felonies, like murder or rape, may lead to a life sentence or the death penalty. Unlike most states, Massachusetts does not classify felonies into different categories. Instead, the punishment for each crime is set by criminal statutes. Some crimes may have fixed sentences, while others may have alternate sentences. Some of the examples of felonies in Massachusetts include:
- Breaking and entering: Carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison
- Rape: Carries a possible penalty of a life sentence in prison
- Manslaughter: Carries a penalty of up to 30 months in a county jail or up to 20 years in prison and/or fines of up to $1,000
- Larceny (over $250): Carries a penalty of up to 2 years in jail or 5 years in prison
- Assault with a deadly weapon: Carries a penalty of up to 30 months in a house of corrections or 10 years in prison
What Information is Provided in Massachusetts Parole and Probation Records?
Parole records in Massachusetts provide official information about the early release of a prisoner. Inmates who are out on parole must agree to meet certain conditions for a fixed period as part of the terms of their early release. The oversight of parolees is maintained by the Massachusetts Parole Board. It conducts parole release hearings, provides reentry services to offenders, and supervises inmates while in the community. It is also the board's responsibility to make sure that the parole rules are strictly adhered to and that there is no parole violation.
While the prisoner is on supervised parole, the board requires, as a condition of parole, that they pay a monthly supervision fee. The board may also agree to accept a lower fee after determining the prisoner's inability to pay. In addition, the board may impose any conditions of parole to make sure the best interests of the prisoner and the citizens of Massachusetts are served.
Probation records are different from parole records. They are official documents that show when a person receives probation as an alternative to prison. Probation allows people convicted of a crime in Massachusetts to serve their sentences out of custody as long as they follow probation conditions imposed by the judge and probation officer. Probation is issued in proportion to the crime, so the length and nature of probation differ (sometimes drastically) from case to case.
Probation typically falls into three categories: minimally supervised, supervised and intensive. Intensive probation is a form of very strict probation that has conditions that vary from state to state but that emphasize punishment and control of the offender within the community.
Parolees or probationers may request their own records by submitting a public request to the central Parole Board office at:
12 Mercer Road
Natick, MA 01760
Members of the public can also obtain public parole or probation records by submitting a request to the Parole board online or via mail.
Are Juvenile Criminal Records Public in Massachusetts?
Juvenile criminal records are generally not open to the public. A juvenile criminal record is an official record of information about criminal activity committed by children or adolescents who are not yet of legal adult age. Juveniles are not considered convicted of a crime like an adult but instead, are found to be "adjudicated delinquent" by the juvenile court. These criminal records are often mistakenly thought to be erased or expunged once a person becomes of legal adult age, but in fact, the record remains unless the person petitions to have it expunged.
What is a Conviction Record in Massachusetts?
A conviction record is an official document providing information that a person is found guilty, pleaded guilty or pleaded no contest to criminal charges in a civilian or military court. The criminal charges are classified as a felony, misdemeanor or other offense. Conviction records also include a person judged delinquent and less than honorably discharged or placed on probation, fined, imprisoned or paroled. A criminal conviction is rendered by either a jury of peers or a judge in a court of law. A conviction does not include a final judgment deleted by a pardon, set aside, reversed or otherwise rendered inoperative.
Massachusetts History and Accuracy of Criminal Records
The accuracy of criminal records data largely depends on the recordkeeping and technological capabilities of the jurisdiction where the record was assembled and later digitized. Massachusetts criminal records archives usually tend to go back as far as the early 1970s - which is when different institutions began to compile criminal and arrest data into an organized, centralized database, much like we use today. Accuracy was more commonly affected by human error in the past. However, in the 1990s the quality and accuracy of recordkeeping improved exponentially due to the advent of the computer.
Find Massachusetts Criminal History Record for Free
A Massachusetts criminal history record contains information regarding an individual's arraignment and arrest (if any) in the state. These records are maintained and accessible through the state Department of Criminal Justice Information Services (DCJIS).
Under the Massachusetts freedom of information act, criminal history records are considered public records. However, section 172 of the Massachusetts Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) Act limits the access level of record seekers to certain information in an individual's criminal history. While a record holder has full access to their criminal history record, other types of record seekers have varying access levels, which are dependent on various factors. These factors include who the requester is, the purpose of the request, as well as the type of request (name-based or fingerprint-supported criminal record check). The DCJIS provides online resources that break down these access levels into two categories: name-based and fingerprint-print-based.
To obtain a copy of their criminal history records, the DCJIS charges record seekers a $25 fee. However, per Section 27A-27G, Chapter 261 of Massachusetts General Laws, this fee may be waived by completing an affidavit of indigency. Criminal history records can be sought online through the Massachusetts DCJIS "iCORI" Services portal or by mail.
The acromion iCORI stands for “Criminal Offender Record Information”. Both a name-based criminal history check and a fingerprint-supported criminal history check can be conducted by record seekers using the iCORI Services portal. Record seekers must create either an individual or organization account to use the iCORI Services portal. On the other hand, a by-mail request would require a record seeker to complete an iCORI request form. The completed form and a $25 money order may then be mailed to the DCJIS address listed on the form to complete the process.
Are Police Records Public in Massachusetts?
Yes, per the Massachusetts Public Records Act, records generated, maintained, and held by police departments and sheriff's offices in the state are public records. However, certain information and records are exempt under the Act. Police records are official records generated and maintained by Massachusetts law enforcement agencies that include information on crimes committed in the state. Examples of such records include arrest records, investigation reports, and criminal records for people arrested, detained, and investigated by the police.
Those data or materials exempt from public disclosure that make up police records are typically inaccessible to the general public. However, they may be accessed by a limited number of authorized individuals. Per Massachusetts General Law Chapter 4, Section 7 (26), These materials and data include, but are not limited to:
- Documents related to active investigations or prosecutions
- Identifying information about a person
- Criminal Offender Record Information (“CORI”)
- Reports of sexual assault, rape, or domestic abuse
- Information that could be used to identify a voluntary witness
How to Obtain Police Records in Massachusetts
To obtain police records in Massachusetts, records seekers need to contact the Record Access Officer of the police department where the desired documents are maintained. Each Massachusetts police department has a designated employee who handles and processes public records requests. These employees are known as the Records Access Officers. Depending on the police department, a police record request can be made in person, online, by phone, or by mail. For example, the Massachusetts State Police accepts police records requests online, by phone request at (508) 820-2300, and by mail at:
Massachusetts State Police
470 Worcester Road
Framingham, MA 01702
When making a public record request, record seekers should provide a reasonable description of the sought-after record. Record seekers should also note that, in compliance with state rules, state agencies typically take longer to release police records that contain confidential information. Because these agencies usually meticulously remove confidential information from such records before they can be made available to the public. To speed up the release process, record seekers should consider revising their public records requests to omit such records. Record seekers should also consider narrowing the scope of their public record requests. Because the first four hours of work done in response to a public record request are free. After the first four hours of work, extra hours may be charged at a rate of up to $25 per hour.
As aforementioned, confidential police records are usually not made public. Nevertheless, certain authorized personnel can access particular types of these records. For example, confidential police records on rapes and sexual assaults or attempts are accessible by victims, their attorneys, victim-witness advocates, and law enforcement agencies.
Massachusetts Police Reports
A police report is a physical record that contains information on an illegal or potentially illegal incident. Examples of such incidents are crimes and arrests. Police records are recorded by a police department representative, typically an officer, and filed following the procedures of that department. Incident data typically makes up a police report. These include the alleged crime classification, basic details of the responding officer such as their name and rank, the date, time, and place the incident occurred, and the method used in reporting the incident. Some of the main types of police reports include:
- Arrest report
- Incident report
- Crime report
- Accident report
As previously stated, under Massachusetts public record laws, records generated and maintained by police departments within the state are presumably public records. However, certain specific exemptions may apply. An example of such an exemption is Massachusetts General Law section 97D, which restricts access to reports concerning domestic violence incidents.
How to File a Police Report with Massachusetts Law Enforcement
In Massachusetts, state residents who wish to file a police report on an incident may contact the local police department or sheriff's office where the incident took place. Alternatively, most Massachusetts police departments and sheriff's offices maintain online reporting systems that state residents can use to file police reports. Through these online systems, state residents can create and file police reports immediately and print copies of the police reports for free.
An incident must meet specific criteria to file a police report on it. Although these criteria usually differ by agency with jurisdiction, some general criteria across different agencies include:
- The incident is not an emergency.
- The incident must occur within the jurisdiction of the agency where the police report is filed.
- There are no known suspects. Most agencies define "known suspects" as when the reporter or another individual knows the perpetrator’s identity, where to look for them, or the perpetrator’s vehicle's license plate number.
- The incident did not occur on a state highway.
Additional criteria may be applicable. For example, the Natick police department does not accept police reports on incidents that occur on the Massachusetts Turnpike. In the town, these types of incidents are reported directly to the state police.
The following are the steps followed in filing a police report in Massachusetts:
- Visit the law enforcement agency with appropriate jurisdiction over the incident location or navigate online to the agency's official website. If the reporter opts to use an agency website, navigate to the website's “file a police report” page. This page may be found by a search performed on the website or by selecting the services listed in the website’s menu.
- Ensure the incident falls under the agency’s criteria of crimes that can be reported online and follow the instructions provided on the website. An online form would be made available. The reporter would fill out the specifics of the incident on the form. The reporter may also need to provide some of their personal information on the form. These include their email address, phone number, and social security number. After filling out the online form, the reporter may submit it through the website.
After submitting the online form, the reporter will be given a police report case number and may print a copy of the police report for their record. Then, the form comes under review by the agency. The reporter might be contacted at any point during the review process if more research is necessary. Note that per Chapter 269, section 13A of Massachusetts general laws, making a false police report is a punishable offense. Offenders can face imprisonment of up to one year or fines of between $100 and $500.
If the incident does not meet the criteria for an online police report, helplines are usually provided on the “file a police report” page through which victims may make inquiries.
Where to Find Free Public Police Records in Massachusetts
Massachusetts public record laws govern the dissemination of public police records. Per these laws, public police records may be requested from the respective state, county, and city police departments or sheriff's offices where they are generated and maintained. As previously stated, each law enforcement agency has a staff designated as the agency records access officer. An agency’s records access officer generally processes public police records requests.
Although making public police records requests is usually accessible in Massachusetts, law enforcement agencies may charge record seekers reasonable fees for making copies of requested records. Additionally, record seekers may be charged up to $25 per hour for complex record requests. A complex record request is characterized by having a broad scope, which warrants more than four hours of work to gather the relevant requested records.
Some Massachusetts police departments also maintain free-to-use online databases that record seekers may use to find public police records such as arrest records. Some examples include and are not limited to Springfield police department's arrest logs, Everett police department's arrest logs, and East Hampton police department’s arrest logs. Record seekers can use arrest logs to review and gain information on arrests made in a specific Massachusetts county or city.
How to Find Mugshots in Massachusetts
A “mugshot” is an informal term for a police photograph. A mugshot is a term used to describe an image profile of a person taken from the shoulders up. Mugshots are usually taken during booking after the person is arrested or taken into custody.
Mugshots are not specifically identified as public records under Massachusetts public record laws. However, they are included in different publicly accessible records. These include and are not limited to arrest records, criminal records, and sex offenders' records. Mugshots are usually included in relevant public records at the discretion of Massachusetts criminal justice agencies.
Record seekers may therefore contact relevant agencies to obtain mugshots that were omitted from public records or are unavailable online. However, the agency may hold the final decision on whether a mugshot is released or not.