If you’re looking to get a background check performed in Massachusetts, there are a few things you need to know about first. Below you will find our comprehensive guide to everything you need to know when getting a background check in Massachusetts.
Massachusetts Background Check Laws
If you’re applying for a new job, trying to buy a car or house, or even applying for another type of loan in Massachusetts, most likely, you will have to go through the background check process.
Every resident of Massachusetts has the right to obtain Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI). This can be done by requesting a copy from the Department of Criminal Justice Information (DCJIS).
This report will contain all the details about an individual’s criminal history, the exception being that any restraining orders or reports of child neglect, child abuse, or endangerment will not be present on your CORI report.
You can obtain your report online as long as you have one of the following:
- Massachusetts Driver’s License
- Massachusetts ID Card
You also have the right to request a CORI report via mail; however, you will need to have a CORI request form notarized prior to sending it to the DCJIS. You will also need to include a money order for $25.00 with your request.
Employment Background Laws
There are specific laws that must be abided by for potential employers or any other company for that matter who is looking to get personal information about another individual’s background.
Any employer that is either established in Massachusetts or hiring an individual who is a resident of Massachusetts must act in accordance with the state’s employment laws.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has laws set in place that protect an applicant’s information, and they must be followed by every company conducting background checks in Massachusetts.
This often pertains to how criminal records can be used and what information can lawfully be shared during any hiring process. When the initial hiring phase is being conducted, employers are not permitted to ask any questions about an applicant’s criminal history.
Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), an employer must follow strict guidelines when going through the candidate’s hiring process. When obtaining a background check for employment in the state of Massachusetts, the employer must:
- Inform the candidate about the background check
- Explain what information will be included
- Notify the intent of use from obtaining consumer records
An applicant must provide written consent to an employer prior to any background check being performed. Once the results are received, they must use that information per Massachusetts employment laws.
There cannot be any questions on an employment application that inquires about an applicant’s criminal past; however, once the potential employee has gone through their first interview with the employer, then they are legally permitted to ask for details about criminal history.
Suppose an employer took the adverse action because of details contained in a background check (consumer report). In that case, the said employer must complete an ‘adverse action notice’ that reveals the information that was used in making a hiring decision.
A candidate’s previous job salaries are not allowed to be revealed to an employer. Any company asking about a potential employee’s salary history as a requirement for being considered for a position is breaking the law and should be reported.
Ban the Box Law
Massachusetts is a ‘ban the box’ state, which means that employers are prohibited from asking any details about an applicant’s criminal background until after the first interview has taken place.
In addition, a lot of employers must make a conditional offer of employment before asking permission to conduct a criminal history background check in Massachusetts.
How Do You Get a Background Check in Massachusetts?
Obtaining a background check can be done by making a request through the Department of Public Safety and Criminal Information. They will use the Criminal Offender Research Information system to retrieve all of your past details.
Many employers, banks, dealerships, etc., do background checks of their own free will. In some cases, you can have access to the findings if those details were used to make an important decision, such as employment, mortgage loans, etc.
Can You Get Your Criminal Records Sealed in Massachusetts?
Yes, there is an administrative process that requires a waiting period when making the request by mail, or you can ask a judge to seal your criminal records without having to wait once you meet the state’s requirements.
In order to have any criminal records sealed, the following time must have passed:
- Misdemeanors – Three Years
- Felonies – Seven Years
The administrative process is the ONLY way that cases, where an individual was found guilty, can be sealed. The only exception can be made for first-time convictions of drug possession.
The same can be done for any case that resulted in a ‘not guilty’ verdict or a dismissal by the judge when a prosecutor drops the case.
Note: The time frames listed above are only for one instance being charged. If you are incarcerated or convicted for another crime, then the clock starts again with the above times.
All juvenile records in the state of Massachusetts are sealed and cannot be obtained or viewed by any employer or other type of business. They are never included in background checks and are forbidden to be used in employment decisions.
If a juvenile were charged with a crime and tried as an adult, then the conviction would be available as it is for any adult convictions. However, requests can be made and granted by a judge depending on the circumstances to keep all records sealed.
How Far Back Do Background Checks Go in Massachusetts?
If you have a criminal history, then living in Massachusetts has its benefits. Some laws protect applicants with criminal records. In fact, Massachusetts is one of the very few states that have such laws in effect.
In most states, background checks typically go back seven years; however, in Massachusetts, there are regulations in place that only allow an employer to receive background details for up to five years.
Private employers can not have access to most arrest records along with multiple other restrictions that have also been put in place. The state of Massachusetts takes privacy very seriously, and there are severe penalties for anybody violating the rights of an applicant.
If a sex offender record search is performed, those details for an individual convicted of a sex crime will remain on file for 20 years for sex offenders, and they will remain available for a lifetime for sex predators.
How Long Does a Background Check Take in Massachusetts?
The time it takes to get background check results will vary based on the type of requests made. Most employers who have background checks conducted by a third-party generally have their results in three to five business days.
You will find websites online that offer instant background check results; however, be careful when using some of these services as they may not have accurate information or the results could be incomplete.
When a criminal background is conducted and includes checking the sex offender records and other types of inquiries, it can take longer to receive the completed background check. However, most are completed within seven to ten days.
What Do Employment Background Checks Look For in Massachusetts?
Most employers are checking a candidate’s background information to confirm all the details an applicant listed to be true on their employment application.
Unfortunately, many applicants tend to exaggerate or even lie when it comes to their qualifications.
This means if you claimed to have a degree from a university and that is a requirement of the position you’re applying for, then the employer is going to want to verify that your degree is, in fact, real.
Here are some of the most common details employers are looking for when conducting a background check in Massachusetts:
- Full Name, Maiden Name, Alias’
- Recent and Current Addresses
- Previous Job History
- Verification of Education (degrees, diplomas, certifications, etc.)
- Criminal History
An employer will only be able to see all your convictions and any open criminal cases that have not been closed as of the time of the search. This means that if you are on parole or probation, the employer will have access to these details.
Suppose you are applying for a management position or a job that requires using a company vehicle or any position that handles finances. In that case, the employer may also request the following:
- Credit Report
- Driving Records
Note: Most employers will only go deeper into your background when the position you’re applying for deems it necessary to know about your entire background.
Credit Background Reports
If you are looking to buy a home or a new car, then the financial institution you are looking to borrow the money from will most definitely do a credit check on your background. It will be the same case when applying for a credit card or a line of credit with any type of business.
Company’s run credit checks on individuals to see if they manage their money well and if they have a habit of paying off their debts in a timely manner. Your credit score is typically hidden from the person running your credit background check.
However, they can see your entire report and the history of all your financial obligations. It will show how many accounts you currently have open, the credit to debt ratio, and your payment history.
It could also include:
- Tax Liens
- Civil Judgments
- Collections of Unpaid Bills
- Credit Inquiries (Recent)
Note: An employer must have your written consent to perform a credit background check in the state of Massachusetts. This also stands true for existing employees that are being considered for a promotion or a change of duties that involves working with finances.
Can You Obtain a Free Credit Report?
Yes, you are entitled to a free copy of your credit report from the top three credit reporting agencies. You can request one copy per agency once a year. This report can be viewed and downloaded online, or you can request that it be mailed to your address.
Accessing your credit file through these agencies will require you being able to prove your identity through some online software that checks your credentials.
If you fail to answer all the questions correctly, you will be denied access to your reports and asked to provide additional information or call their customer service representative directly.
The three main credit reporting agencies:
You can visit www.AnnualCreditReport.com to request all three of your reports, or you can call 1-877-322-8228 to speak to someone directly. If you prefer to request your free credit reports via mail, then you can download the Annual Credit Report Request Form and mail it directly to:
Annual Credit Report Request Service
PO Box 105281
Atlanta, GA 30348-5281
Can You Get a Free Background Check in Massachusetts?
It is not possible to receive an official background check for free in the state of Massachusetts. However, if you are only looking to obtain certain details, using public records might be the only resource you need.
Keep in mind that a public record search is not considered to be an official background check. You can typically obtain various records that allow public access by visiting the court in which the person you are researching resides in that jurisdiction.
If the said person has lived in multiple counties in Massachusetts, you will need to go to the different court jurisdictions to obtain the relevant records. You will not be able to access any documents that are not within the state of Massachusetts.
Why Do People Conduct Background Checks on Other Individuals?
There are a variety of reasons that people want to know about another person’s background history. This becomes a necessity when somebody is putting their trust or money in somebody else’s hands.
People often want to find out background details on:
- Love Interest
Getting detailed information on somebody’s background can give you insights as to whether or not they can be trusted. Typically people will use online resources to try and find information about another individual’s habits, such as social media accounts.
But when it comes to criminal convictions or other illegal activity, you’re going to have to turn to court records that are accessible to the general public. This will help identify if somebody is a potential threat to society or has previously committed a crime.
You won’t be able to get all the details of another person due to protection laws; however, you should be able to find out if the individual you are looking into is trustworthy.
Background Check Gun Laws in Massachusetts
There is a federal law in place that requires all federally licensed firearms dealers to begin a background check on any buyer before selling them a gun. This does not pertain to a private seller who is not considered to be a federally licensed firearms dealer.
Each state is provided the option to serve as a ‘point of contact’ under federal law and conduct its own background checks. They are required to use state and federal databases and records to obtain the necessary data.
They can also choose to have the FBI perform the background checks using the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) database. However, Massachusetts is not considered to be a ‘point of contact’ state.
Therefore, firearm dealers in the state of Massachusetts must contact the FBI directly before beginning the background check that is mandatory per federal law. All firearm owners must also obtain a state license before making the purchase of any firearm in Massachusetts.
Any individual selling four or more firearms in a calendar year must obtain a firearm dealer’s license. Private sellers must verify any buyer’s Firearm Identification Card through a web portal hosted by the Department of Criminal Justice Information Services.
How Long Does it Take to Get a Firearm’s Background Check Results?
The FBI has three business days to conduct and review an applicant’s background check application from the date of receiving it. If they cannot find any cause to reject or decline the firearm’s purchaser from proceeding with a gun’s purchase, the transfer can occur.
If the FBI does not respond within three business days, then on the fourth business day, the firearm transfer from the federally licensed dealer and the buyer can be completed successfully.
What If You Find Mistakes on Your Background Check?
It is possible that there will be mistakes in some individual’s background reports. The most common cause of this is when a person’s identity has been stolen and used to run up excessive debt without the lawful person’s knowledge.
It is always a good idea to run both a background check and credit report on yourself periodically to check and see if everything looks correct. It is also another way of identifying incorrect reporting from a financial institution.
Suppose you find one or more mistakes or errors in the information recorded on your background report conducted in Massachusetts. In that case, you can contact the Department of Public Safety and Criminal Information to get it rectified.
You will be required to show proof of fraudulent reporting claims and provide documentation that shows the resolution of the accused errors.
For example, if a credit card shows you have an outstanding balance of $5,000 and is reporting missing payments monthly on a debt that was paid off – you will need to prove the account was paid in full.