Expunging a Conviction in Minnesota

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 What Is Expungement? What Is Record Sealing?

A criminal conviction is a formal judgment of guilt by an individual that is entered by a court. A criminal conviction on a person’s criminal record can cause many problems. For example, criminal convictions may impact:

  • A person’s ability to employment;
  • A person’s right to obtain professional licensing;
  • A person’s right to vote; and/or
  • A person’s right to obtain or carry a firearm.

Importantly, even if a criminal case does not result in a formal conviction, the record of the person’s arrest and the criminal prosecution generally remain on that person’s criminal record. This record of arrest may also similarly impact an individual.

However, there are specific circumstances in which many convictions and records of arrest can be sealed away. Sealing a record means that the records are off limits to everyone but law enforcement personnel. Alternatively, an individual’s criminal record may be eligible for a legal process known as expungement. Expungement is the legal process in which a person’s criminal file is completely removed from public records.

The defining difference between record sealing and expungement is the end result of the criminal records. If the records are sealed, then they still exist in the database. This means that the files and records are still intact, but they cannot be accessed by employers and other such people. In general, a person’s juvenile criminal files are sealed once they turn eighteen years old, although such records may still be accessed through a court order.

On the other hand, expungement results in the actual deletion or removal of criminal charges and arrest files altogether. Thus, the effect of expungement is as if the arrest or crime never occurred in the first place. It is important to note that certain criminal charges are generally more difficult to have expunged than other criminal charges.For example, misdemeanor charges are generally more easily expunged than felony charges.

The statutes and laws regarding criminal record sealing and expungement tend to vary widely from state to state. Further, eligibility for record sealing and expungement procedures largely depend on the type of crime that was committed. As such, it is important to consult local statutes and laws regarding the process for expungement.

How Is Eligibility For Record Sealing Or Expungement Determined?

Once again, whether or not an individual is eligible for record sealing or expungement varies from state to state. In general, examples of such standards utilized by courts to determine eligibility for record sealing or expungement includes:

  • Whether or not the original sentence has been served. Typically, the original sentence must first be completely served before expungement is possible;
  • Whether or not the person is facing any new charges at the time of their expungement or sealing application; and
  • Whether or not the applicant can prove that all probation requirements, if probation was a part of their original criminal sentence, have been fulfilled.

When a person has met all of the eligibility requirements, they will then be able to apply for record sealing. All applications for record sealing must be done in writing, and they must be filed with the court in which the original conviction occurred.

A petition for expungement is generally only applicable for one case. This means that if a person wants to expunge multiple records, that person will most likely need to file separate petitions for each criminal conviction. The judge will then review the petitions in order to determine eligibility for expungement. It is important to note that individual courts may also have their own procedures for expungement of record sealing.

What Are Minnesota’s Expungement Laws?

In 2015, Minnesota made significant changes to the expungement laws of the state. Under the new set of rules, an individual may expunge arrest records, misdemeanors, and certain felony convictions. Once again, if an individual’s criminal record is expunged, it is removed from public view and that individual does not have to disclose it to prospective employers, or landlords. However, expunged records are still able to be accessed by law enforcement.

As far as juvenile criminal convictions in Minnesota, most juvenile criminal records are private, unless the individual was 16 or 17 years old at the time of the crime and charged with a felony. Once again, law enforcement and certain state agencies may still have access to an individual’s private juvenile records.

An individual may also expunge their juvenile record. As per Minnesota law, juvenile adjudication of delinquency records can be expunged at any time, as long as the judge of that court in the county where the conviction originally occurred deems that the juvenile expungement is in the best interest of the individual and society.

How Do I Expunge a Conviction in Minnesota?

When you are charged or convicted of a crime in Minnesota, your criminal records may be stored by law enforcement agencies, prosecutors, local courts, and the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (“BCA”). An expungement would seal all of these records and hide them from public view and access. An individual in Minnesota may be eligible for a full expungement if:

  • Their criminal charges resulted in an acquittal or dismissal;
  • They had a juvenile conviction where they were prosecuted as an adult;
  • They completed a diversion program and haven’t been charged with any additional crimes in at least one year;
  • They had a petty misdemeanor conviction and haven’t been charged with any additional crimes in at least two years;
  • They had a gross misdemeanor conviction and haven’t been charged with any additional crimes in at least four years; or
  • They had been convicted of certain non-violent felonies and haven’t been charged with any additional crimes in at least five years.

If eligible for an expungement, an individual can then request a full expungement of that criminal conviction. In order to request a full expungement, an individual must submit a variety of expungement forms, along with a copy of their criminal case history. Filing fees and court costs for expungement matters vary, depending on where you live and the severity of your crime. Next, they must send copies of these forms to the prosecutor and law enforcement agencies that were involved in their original case.

The court will then schedule a hearing where the individual and others may testify and present evidence supporting the case for expungement. The judge will then issue a decision either granting or denying the request for expungement. The entire expungement process in Minnesota typically takes at least four months from beginning to end.

Once again, if an individual’s request for expungement is granted, they may lawfully state that the expunged criminal record does not exist. As such, when most employers search that individual’s Minnesota criminal record, the charges will not be present. However, certain government agencies, military, and law enforcement agencies may still be able to access expunged records.

Is Partial Expungement an Option? Can I Seal Arrest Records?

If an individual is not eligible for a full expungement, they may still ask the original convicting court for a partial expungement. A partial conviction would effectively still seal their court records. However, the public would still have access to the individual’s criminal records at the BCA or other criminal reporting agencies.

An individual may also seal their arrest records if charges were never filed against them. In these cases, law enforcement and the BCA will still be able to access arrest history, but the courts were not involved in the criminal process.

In order to expunge arrest records, an individual must file a written request with the law enforcement agencies that were involved in the original case. Filing with the court is not necessary in these cases, as they were not involved.

Do I Need An Attorney To Expunge a Conviction Or Criminal Record In Minnesota?

If you would like to have a conviction or criminal record expunged in the state of Minnesota, it is in your best interests to consult with an experienced Minnesota expungement lawyer. An experienced attorney will be best suited to helping you understand Minnesota’s most updated expungement laws, and what your legal options are under those laws.

Further, if you have any questions regarding Minnesota’s expungement laws and process, an attorney can answer those questions for you. Additionally, an experienced criminal defense or expungement lawyer can guide you through the legal process of applying for expungement if you are eligible to do so. Finally, an attorney will also be able to represent you in court, as needed.

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