One question that I’m often asked by clients charged with a crime is “Will this be on my permanent record?”

My answer, unfortunately, is almost always “yes.”

In Massachusetts, criminal charges become part of your record (formally referred to as your Court Activity Record Information or “CARI”) once you are arraigned.

Arraignment is the initial step in a criminal prosecution when the defendant is first brought before the court to hear the charges and to enter a plea.  This usually occurs within a day of the defendant’s arrest.  For lesser offenses, the defendant may be summoned to arraignment, rather than brought there in police custody.  In such cases, arraignment may not take place for days or even weeks after the date of the alleged crime.

The only way to prevent charges from appearing on your record is to have the case dropped by the prosecution prior to arraignment.

This can be done (possibly) if there is a diversion program that suits the alleged offense—a rare occurrence.  Even rarer are cases where there has been some mistake by the police or prosecution regarding the charges and the mistake can be substantiated in the brief window of time prior to arraignment.  (For an example, click the video below.)

In the vast majority of cases, however, arraignment is a near certainty and so are the charges appearing on your record, regardless of the disposition of the case (acquittal, conviction, CWOF, etc.)

The only way to mitigate the situation is by having your record sealed after the case is resolved.  In some cases, the charges may even be expunged.  But those are topics for another blog post.