Expungements in MN
On January 1, 2015, Governor Dayton signed into law new rules governing expungement. The new rule expanded statutory expungement to most petty misdemeanor, misdemeanor, and gross misdemeanor convictions. The new law also provides a list of specific felonies that are eligible for expungement.
What Records does the Court Seal?
A person who has not been convicted of a crime may still have a criminal record if they have had any interaction with police, the court, or other law enforcement agency that creates a “record.” Although these records are generally not available to the public for review, in Minnesota these non-conviction records can be used to make decisions in employment and housing. A person who has been arrested but not charged with a crime must go through a non-court process to seal their records.
Under the new law, in some cases, the court has inherent authority to seal all government-held records in criminal cases. This is sometimes referred to as “full expungement.” This means that a court can issue an order to seal all court records and all records held at the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, police departments, corrections, and other agencies. This is very different than the old law which did not allow the court to seal records held by the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and other agencies.
If you have been convicted of a crime and your case does not fit into the “full expungement” provisions of the new law, the court may only have the authority to seal its own records. In these situations, there may still be a public record of your criminal matter with a different agency, like the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. These records may still show up on background checks for employment, housing or licensing.
Do I qualify for an Expungement?
If you have been convicted of a petty misdemeanor, misdemeanor, or gross misdemeanor offense, you may qualify for full expungement under the following circumstances:
1. You successfully completed the terms of a diversion program or stay of adjudication and you have not been charged with a new crime for at least one year since you completed the diversion program or stay of adjudication;
2. You were convicted of or received a stayed sentence for a petty misdemeanor or misdemeanor and you have not been convicted of a new crime for at least two years since the discharge of the sentence;
3. If you were convicted of or received a stayed sentence for a gross misdemeanor and you have not been convicted of a new crime for at least four years since the discharge of the sentence;
4. You were convicted of or received a stayed sentence for a qualifying felony and you have not been convicted of a new crime for at least five years since the discharge of the sentence for the crime.
For any crimes that do not fit within these statutes, an individual may ask the court for an inherent authority expungement. However, as mentioned above, the court may only have authority to seal court records, and not records held by other agencies.
Why get an Expungement?
There are many reasons to get an expungement. The most common reasons are for employment background checks, housing background checks, getting a loan, and simply for peace of mind.
Many job applications ask whether or not the applicant has been convicted of a crime. If a person is able to have their record successfully expunged, they should be able to truthfully answer “no” to this question. Furthermore, some employers are unable to employ people with certain convictions. If these convictions are expunged, the individual may be eligible for a higher paying position within their company.
Many rental agencies also ask whether an applicant has a criminal record. If an applicant answers yes, the rental agency may decide to rent the apartment to another person who does not have any criminal convictions. If the record is expunged, the applicant should not need to disclose their past criminal history to the rental agency.
Some loan applications also ask whether or not the applicant has a criminal history. The loan agency may believe that a person with a criminal conviction is less likely to meet their financial obligations. This could mean that the loan agency raises the applicant’s rate of interest or they decide not to approve their loan. An expungement would avoid these issues.