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Massachusetts Public Records

There are many reasons for people to request public records. An employer can request a background check for a prospective employee, a victim may want to access the criminal records of an attacker, or a person may want to replace their birth certificate. 

While requesters have many reasons to review public records, it’s not always an easy process. To start, you need to know which records you can access by law. You need to figure out which state department has the records, and know how to request them.  

To help citizens access public information, this guide will provide direction on accessing criminal, inmate, court, and vital records in the state of Massachusetts. 

What does the Massachusetts public records law say?

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has closely followed federal laws like the Freedom of Information Act when it comes to the release of records. While government records held by a governmental entity are considered public, Massachusetts is the only state to exempt its executive offices, legislative branch, and judicial branch from public records release. 

Massachusetts general laws excludes documents with personal information such as medical files, abuse or rape files, personnel files or documents deemed an invasion of privacy. Records that pertain to public safety are also off limits. 

Massachusetts has ten days to reply when you request records. If requested records can’t be delivered in that timeframe, the state can add 20-30 day extensions to your request. However, Massachusetts state must send a written response explaining the need for the extension. 

If the request is denied, the requester can appeal the decision. The appeal must happen within ten days of the denial. 

Like most states, Massachusetts has a records retention rate set, which sets a certain number of years for records to be kept. The retention schedule can be accessed online. 

How can a person access public records in Massachusetts?

Public interest in Massachusetts records can be accommodated by electronic records or by submitting a formal records request. If a request is required, it can be sent via email, mail, or by phone to the record-holding department. 

Every department is different, so expect some variation to the rules if you’re accessing records from multiple places. 

In general, a public records request should include: 

  • Your name and contact information, including an email, phone number, and mailing address
  • The name of the document you want access to with as much detail as possible
  • A specific time you’d like to receive the materials by
  • How to deliver the documents, whether by email or mail

Due to COVID-19, some public offices may have limited hours of operation. As a result, online requests are best, but if you want to go in person you should call ahead.

Massachusetts criminal records

When you want to hire a candidate who will be dealing with your business records, financial accounts, or personnel information, you want a candidate with a clean background check. You wouldn’t want to hire someone to deal with your cash if that person has been arrested for fraud or bribery.

The criminal record, gleaned from Massachusetts’ sixteen correction facilities, will provide you a record of arrests, convictions, and incarcerations. You will not receive juvenile, expunged, or other such records. 

What’s on a criminal record?

In Massachusetts, the following information would be released:

  • Name and any aliases
  • Physical description
  • Fingerprints
  • Warrants and pending charges
  • Charges and convictions
  • Civil and non-incarcerable offenses
  • Murder, manslaughter, or sex offenses with a conviction
  • Felony charges with a conviction

A fingerprint-supported search will give you information on:

  • Arrests regardless of arraignment both in and out-of-state
  • Pending offenses
  • Out-of-state convictions and non-convictions
  • Federal and international arrests and charges including deportation and immigration proceedings

Where can a person find Massachusetts criminal records?

The Massachusetts Department of Criminal Justice Information Services can provide criminal records through its iCORI system. You can complete a name-based criminal record check for the individual you are seeking. A fingerprint-supported check will review the state you are in and other states too.  

To submit a criminal background check to iCORI, you must first register for an iCORI account. You must choose between registering as an individual or as an organization. Follow these quick steps for help: 

  1. Choose account type
  2. Enter account details
  3. Verify and submit
  4. Email confirmation will be sent to you for your login
  5. Go back to iCORI and log into your new account

Follow the steps on the web page to complete your request. Select the organization associated with the request. Make sure you add a purpose and subject. You must pay the one time fee of $25.00. 

By mail, a requester can complete an iCORI Request Form to get information about your criminal records. The request and $25 money order should be sent to the Massachusetts Department of Criminal Justice Information Services in Chelsea. 

Massachusetts inmate records

If you are seeking inmate records for yourself, your business, or another organization, you will use the VINELink website. VINE stands for Victim Information and Notification Everyday. You can access it every day, 24/7/365. The Massachusetts Department of Correction does not run the website. 

What’s on an inmate record?

You can receive information on inmates in custody. Your request will show if the inmate is on probation or parole. A change in the inmate’s prison status, due to a prison violation, will be shared. The records show if the inmate has been released, or has escaped. 

Where can a person find Massachusetts inmate records?

To use VINELink to find the inmate you are seeking and begin by entering the state and facility. You will need to have the inmate’s full last name and first initial of the first name. You need to enter the offender’s identification number to continue your request. 

The website supports 195+ languages over the phone and is confidential. You can opt-in for notifications by phone, text, email, TTY, or use their app as well

Massachusetts court records

Court records hold vital information for you to use for your own life, such as a divorce certificate, or for your business, like a lawsuit. You can find information from the Supreme Judicial Court, Appeals Court, and Trial Court. 

What’s on a court record?

You can request the following from Massachusetts courts:

  • Docket information
  • Decisions and orders
  • Evidence 
  • Transcripts 
  • Pending and closed civil and criminal cases
  • Warrants
  • Pleadings and motions from a lawsuit
  • Jury information and questionnaires

Where can a person find Massachusetts court records?

Go to the website above and scroll down until you see 3 icons. Trial Court Records, Supreme Judicial Court, and Divorce Records all have an icon. Each icon allows an online or phone search. 

The Boston Court and District Court have records on civil, criminal, and small claims.

Superior Court documents are civil actions, state and municipality records, business litigation,equitable remedies, real property and torts. 

Probate Court cases include name change, custody, support, domestic relations, equity claims, estates, guardianship, paternity, probate and wills. 

Housing Court cases are civil, and small claims. 

Land Court case types are permits, registration, tax liens, miscellaneous, severed and service members. 

Criminal cases include criminal complaints, indictments and probation transfers. 

Massachusetts vital records

The Registry of Vital Records and Statistics retain the vital records for Massachusetts You would request. These records include births, deaths, fetal death, divorces, marriages, and teen birth rates. Vital records can only be requested by the person listed on the record or by a member of the family. 

What information is needed to request a vital record?

  • The name of the person
  • Birthdate in some instances
  • Date and place of the event
  • Proof of your identification 

Where can a person find Massachusetts vital records?

The Registry of Vital Records provides access to vital records. If you need to request a certified birth certificate, for example, you can use the website to complete your order online or you can order by phone or mail. Costs vary between $20.00 for in-person to $51.00 for a phone order. 

Frequently asked questions about Massachusetts records

For support on your search, check out these frequently asked questions.

Can a request be submitted by non-residents of the state?

Yes. Whether you live in Boston, Worcester County, Denver, or New York City, both residents and non-residents can submit requests.

Is there a records custodian in Massachusetts?

Yes. Massachusetts law states that each agency must assign a supervisor of public records or a records access officer. 

What exemptions exist?

Massachusetts has several exemptions. You cannot obtain records that have been labeled confidential, such as personnel, medical files, or information that would be an invasion of personal privacy. 

Records between law enforcement officers and victims of abuse or rape shall not be public records and are kept within the police departments to protect confidentiality. The victims, attorneys, law officers, and victim-witness advocates can have access to these records. 

Massachusetts statues can prohibit you from receiving public records. These records are marked either “shall not be a public record” or “shall be kept confidential.”

How long does that state have to respond?

The state agency has 10 business days to respond to your request. The agency may add a 20 or 30-day extension to copy and redact information. 

Is there an appeal process in place?

Yes. If your request is denied, or the records cannot be provided within 10 days, the records custodian is required to inform you. At that time you have the right to appeal. The secretary of the commonwealth overseas, according to the code of Massachusetts regulations (CMR). The secretary can turn the case over to the attorney general, if necessary.

What fees are associated with requesting public records?

Massachusetts agencies will charge a search and segregation fee. This fee can be the time allocated for redacting information. This fee can be up to, but not exceed $25.00 an hour. The fee varies by the population of the municipality. If it exceeds $25.00 an hour it has to be approved by the agency’s supervisor. Also, $0.05 is charged for single or double-sided black and white copies. 

  • Updated November 2, 2020
  • States

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