What is expungement? Expungement is the process of going to court to ask the judge for an Order sealing certain criminal records and prohibiting the disclosure of their existence or their opening except under court order or statutory authority (See Minn. Stat. 609A.01(2014)).
On January 1, 2015, Minnesota’s new expungement law went into effect. There are vast changes which now make it easier for many Minnesotans to seal negative criminal history that has likely plagued them from valuable employment and safe housing opportunities.
Minnesota’s new expungement laws allow more criminal records to be expunged and now allow a Judge to order other government agencies to seal their records. Prior to the new law of 2015, if a case was not resolved in your favor, a Judge could only seal the court record, not records of other agencies (such as the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, aka the “BCA”).
Prior to 2015, a person was entitled to have a particular record sealed ONLY if the case was resolved in their favor. This generally meant that the person was acquitted after trial, the case was dismissed, or the person successfully completed a pre-trial diversion program. If these criteria were met, a person would be automatically entitled to have record of their arrest and charge sealed from the public without paying court filing fees.
If the case was not resolved in your favor (meaning you pleaded guilty or were found guilty by a judge or jury), prior to 2015, you would have to apply to ask the judge to exercise their discretionary authority to seal ONLY the court records. In order for a judge to exercise their discretionary authority, a person would have to prove to the judge that the person made changes in their life that demonstrate that they are very unlikely to commit another crime and that the benefit to the person from the expungement outweighs the burden of sealing the records.
After January 1, 2015, a person may qualify for an expungement in the following situations:
- A juvenile prosecuted as an adult and committed to the commissioner of corrections if the person is finally discharged by the commissioner or has been placed on probation under a stay of imposition and has been successfully discharged from probation.
- Criminal charges were dismissed, the person was found not guilty, or the case did not result in a guilty pleas or conviction;
- A person successfully completed the terms of a pre-trial diversion program or stay of adjudication (one (1) year after discharge from the sentence if the person has not been charged with a new crime);
- A person convicted of or received a stayed sentence for a petty misdemeanor or misdemeanor conviction (two (2) years after discharge from the sentence if the person remained crime free);
- A person convicted of or received a stayed sentence for a gross misdemeanor (four (4) years after discharge from the sentence if the person remained crime free);
- A person was convicted of or received a stayed sentence for a low-level, non-violent felony (five (5) years after completion of sentence if the person remained crime free).
- Common felonies include, but not limited to:
- Controlled Substance in the Fifth Degree or Sale of a simulated controlled substance;
- Unlawful acts involving liquor;
- Leaving the state to evade establishment of paternity;
- Theft of $5,000 or less
- Receiving stolen goods;
- Dishonored check over $500;
- Embezzlement of public funds $2,500 or less;
- Criminal damage to property;
- Aggravated forgery, forgery, check forger of $2,500 or less;
- Financial transaction card fraud;
- Cellular counterfeiting;
Under the new law, expungement is not possible for a person convicted of an offense for which registration of predatory offenders is required. You may still qualify for an expungement (but only for the court’s records) even if you do not meet the above conditions.
The new law is expansive but can prove to be very helpful for many Minnesotans that find themselves disadvantaged by previous poor decisions or bad circumstances that have made a change and worthy of another chance.
*** This blog is not to be considered for legal advice but generalization of this topic. Your specific situation must be evaluated independently to determine whether you qualify for an expungement.
Feel free to contact Wilson Law Office for a free consultation.612.377.0500
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