Basics of Expungements in Minnesota

Life is certainly tough enough, but it is considerably more difficult when you have a criminal record. Employers may choose not to hire you, rental agencies may not offer you a place to live, and insurers may consider you to be an unacceptable risk. While prior decisions are not reliable indicators of future behavior, many people still see trouble in a criminal record. Nevertheless, you should be able to move on with life after you have paid your debt to society. Because of this, Minnesota law allows some criminal records to be expunged.

An expungement is the formal procedure for sealing a person's criminal file from public view. Through this process, a defendant can petition the court to seal information stemming from arrests, detention records and all related proceedings which did not lead to a finding of guilt. If criminal charges were dropped, a not guilty verdict was rendered, or a conviction was overturned on appeal, a defendant would be eligible to have all records relating to the prosecution expunged.

This is especially important for people who accept plea deals, and successfully complete probation and court-ordered directives to avoid jail time and other criminal penalties.

Benefits of an Expungement

Criminal records are a matter of public record, meaning that they are available for anyone to view. Once an expungement is granted, the court issues an order to segregate the record and prevent it from being accessible by the public. As such, information brokers and other entities that perform criminal background checks may not access these records. Therefore, expungements allow defendants to deny the arrest and the subsequent prosecution of the crime that was expunged.

However, there are limited circumstances where it may be necessary to state that you previously had a case expunged. State licensing agencies, especially law enforcement and law practice admission boards, for example, may access sealed records and use them for character and fitness determinations.

Those seeking expungements should also be mindful of the difference between expungement of judicial branch records (where the court can use its inherent authority) and the seal of executive branch records, which are maintained by the BCA and other law enforcement agencies.

As of January 2015, there have been some exciting new changes in Minnesota expungement law.

This article is intended as a basic overview to Minnesota law regarding expungements and should not be considered legal advice. Each case is different and is decided on its own merits. An experienced criminal defense attorney can answer further questions about the process and provide specific advice regarding your eligibility.