Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Minnesota Expungements (Explained)

What is Criminal Expungement?

Criminal “Expungement” is the process of going to court to convince a judge to seal a criminal record. When a record is sealed, it does not show up in a criminal records search performed at the courthouse. An expungement does not erase your criminal courthouse record, but it prevents it from being viewed by the public.

What is my Minnesota criminal record and where is it kept?

Your complete Minnesota criminal record is comprised of all of the files and records of any crime that the State of Minnesota has filed against you. Each city, county and state law enforcement agency, prosecutor's office and courthouse keeps its own records. In addition, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) has records of criminal convictions.

What type of criminal record information is public?

Typically, the information from your criminal record that is public includes the crime charged, the name of the court that convicted or dismissed the charges, the date of conviction or dismissal, a description of the sentence served and other details of the crime and court process.

Can employers check my state criminal court record?

Yes. In Minnesota, any person can search District Court criminal records at the county courthouse. An employer will most likely search the court records of the county where you live or work. Each county that is searched will have only the criminal records for that particular county. Another place that the public, including employers, check criminal records is at the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA). Law enforcement agencies throughout Minnesota report information in their criminal records to the BCA. The BCA compiles this information into a "statewide" computerized record of criminal cases.

What types of criminal records can be expunged?

Records of serious crimes like murder and sex offender crimes are never expunged. Similarly, enhanceable offenses, like DWI, are not expunged. Less serious crimes may be expunged only if we can convince the judge that the benefits of expungement to you outweigh the disadvantages to the public. It is important to note that even when the court grants an expungement of a conviction, the records kept by some agencies, including the BCA, might not be sealed.

What if I was found “not guilty” or the charges were dismissed?

Even if you are found "not guilty" in a criminal case, you still have a criminal record. However, it is generally easier to expunge these types of criminal records. Similarly, if you never entered a guilty plea and you successfully completed a pre-trial “diversion program,” an expungement is more likely. A conviction (pleading guilty or being found guilty) is more difficult to expunge.

What are the chances of my petition for expungement being granted?

An expungement is never guaranteed. You need to do the paperwork and convince the judge that, on balance, the benefit of the expungement to you is greater than the disadvantage it would be for the public to not have access to your criminal record. This generally means you have to prove that: (1) you have been denied work, housing, or a professional license because of your record; (2) sealing your criminal record will not negatively affect public safety; and (3) you have rehabilitated yourself.

How long does the expungement process take?

In Minnesota, at least 63 days must pass between when your paperwork is mailed to the government agencies and when a judge holds the hearing to consider your request. If the judge grants the expungement, another 60 days will pass before the court actually seals your record.

If my criminal case is expunged, what happens to my court record?

A sealed state court record still exists but it is "invisible" to the general public. If the expunged crime was the only crime on your record, you will not have a court record that the public can see. Employers and the general public cannot see sealed records.

What about sealing the BCA and other agencies' records?

Under current Minnesota law, a state court judge can order the BCA and other agencies to expunge a dismissed case or a case in which you were found “not guilty.” However, if you were convicted, the judge generally cannot order the BCA and other agencies to expunge or seal their records.

If you are someone you love is looking for an Expungement, call the Rolloff Law Office today to set up a Free Consultation: (612) 234-1165.

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