Misdemeanor Guide

Massachusetts Misdemeanors

Misdemeanors in Massachusetts
Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 274, Section 1 defines felonies and misdemeanors. Any crime punishable by death or imprisonment in the state prison is a felony. All other crimes are misdemeanors. This is not to say that any crime that carries a possibility of imprisonment is automatically a felony. Because there are state prisons, houses of correction, and county jails in Massachusetts, misdemeanors can result in imprisonment in the one of the latter two facilities.

There are two levels of misdemeanor in Massachusetts that crimes will fall into based on the maximum statutory penalty of incarceration associated with that crime. If the crime has a maximum statutory penalty of incarceration for more than six months, then it is a level two misdemeanor. If the maximum penalty is limited to six months or less, then it is a level one misdemeanor.

Can I get a misdemeanor wiped off my record?
Massachusetts has no statute for expunging convictions. However, if an applicant meets certain conditions, he or she may have their record sealed. This allows the person to say that there have been no convictions in an application for private or public employment, but the offense will still be made available to the court in the event of a subsequent conviction or probation.

In order to qualify to have his or her record sealed, the applicant must have had all proceedings connected to the misdemeanor--including probation--end at least ten years prior to the request. The applicant also may not have been found guilty of any criminal offense for the ten years leading up to the request aside from motor vehicle offenses where the penalty did not exceed a fine of fifty dollars. Firearms violations, however, cannot be sealed away in Massachusetts.

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

What if I was under 18 when I was convicted?
If you were convicted as a juvenile, then you need to wait three years to have your records sealed. In that period, you must have stayed out of trouble with no adjudications of delinquency and cannot have been found guilty of other crimes. Similar to the sealing of adult records, the sealed record of a juvenile may not be used to disqualify the person from employment, but may be used for sentencing in the event of subsequent offenses.

Is an OUI a misdemeanor or a felony?

Massachusetts has escalating penalties for DUI offenses. The first offense is a misdemeanor and carries a fine ranging from $500 to $5,000 with jail time of not more than two and a half years. The second offense is also a misdemeanor and carries jail time of 30 to 60 days, but not more than two and a half years, with fines anywhere from $600 to $6,000. A third offense has a mandatory minimum of 150 days to a maximum of five years in state prison and the fine ranges from $1,000 to $15,000.

See also:
Massachusetts Felony External link (opens in new window)
Massachusetts Expungement External link (opens in new window)
Massachusetts Gun Laws External link (opens in new window)