Friday, August 12, 2011

Minnesota Expungements (Explained)

Minnesota law does allow for certain criminal records to be sealed. The process for doing that is called Expungement. When a record is sealed - it does not show up in a criminal records search performed at the courthouse.

What's a Criminal Record?

In Minnesota a criminal record is essentially all of the files and records (of any crime) that the state has filed against you. Each jurisdiction - be it a city, a county, a law enforcement agency, a prosecutor's office and/or a courthouse keeps its copy of said records. Additionally, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension also has its own cache of criminal convictions. 

Who Can Access Criminal Records?

Generally speaking, the information from your criminal record is public information - meaning that anyone can have access to it, including potential employers. As such, any person can search the district court criminal records at any county courthouse. Another place that the public, including employers, can access criminal records is at the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension - where law enforcement agencies throughout the state have reported to them information that then becomes part of a statewide computerized record of criminal cases.

What Kinds of Criminal Records Can Be Expunged?

Some offenses, such as murder, certain sex offenses and Drunk Driving convictions cannot be expunged. However, most other offenses may be - if you or your experienced Minnesota Criminal Defense Attorney can convince the judge that the benefits of an Expungement to you outweigh the disadvantages to the public.

What Happens With Offenses That Did Not Lead To Convictions?

Granted, the most difficult types of records to Expunge are convictions; however, the task is not impossible.  That being said, even if a charge is dismissed and/or an offender has been found "not guilty," he still may have have a criminal record. That being said, these can often be the easiest types of records to Expunge. In addition, offenses to which someone a guilty plea and then successfully completed a diversion program -one's chances at Expungement are more likely.

If I File an Expungement - Will I Automatically Prevail?

As with anything in the law, an Expungement is never guaranteed. First, you need to properly file the paperwork, serving it upon all of the relevant parties, and then you have to argue convincingly to a judge how his granting you this remedy is of such a benefit to you that it outweighs the disadvantage to the public from not being able to have access to your record.  I often will argue that Expungement is proper because someone has either: (a.) been denied work, housing, or a professional license because of his/her record; (b.) that sealing the criminal record will not negatively impact public safety; and/or (iii.) that the individual has rehabilitated him/herself.

If Expungment is Granted - What Happens Next?

Generally speaking, the court has a limited amount of time to grant your request. If the judge does do this, your record will be sealed the public. If the Expunged crime was the only crime on your record, you will not have anything that the public can see. The one limitation is that, as the law stands today, the court can only seal those records under its immediate control; therefore, other records, such as those held by another agency may not be so guarded.

What Should You Do?

For a long time now, Minnesota law has recognized that people who have made a few, isolated mistakes or those who have been mistakenly arrested should have the opportunity to clean their records. If you feel as though what you've read here applies to you, contact an experienced Minnesota Expungement Attorney to discuss your questions and concerns and to get the ball rolling working to ensure that your past doesn't continue to hinder your future.


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