Expungement

As of January 1, 2015, expungement applies to more cases, and it is a more complete remedy. Call Catherine Turner to talk about your expungement options today!

A criminal conviction can be a major obstacle to obtaining employment, furthering education, getting a professional license, qualifying for a loan, or renting property. Until recently, Courts were limited in their authority to grant expungements, and when a record was sealed, it was only sealed in the Judicial branch. Now that authority expands to the executive branch, meaning that if your case is expunged in the Courts, it has to be sealed by the BCA, prosecutors, police departments, and other agencies.

This does not mean that everyone who has ever been convicted of a crime is now eligible to have their records sealed. There are still other requirements to meet and limits to the process. To find out if you qualify for expungement, or if you want to learn more, call Catherine today for a consultation.

What is Expungement?

Expungement is the act of sealing your criminal records. If you have a conviction or arrest on your record that you want removed, you can ask a judge to seal your records so they won’t be visible to the public and won’t show up on an official background check. Some cases can be expunged automatically by statute. For other cases, you must ask for the court to exercise its authority to grant the expungement, and it is up to a judge to determine if your need for the expungement outweighs the public’s right to know about your case.
What exactly is a criminal record?

Your complete Minnesota criminal record consists of all the files and records of any crime the State of Minnesota has filed against you, whether it is a traffic violation, misdemeanor, gross misdemeanor or felony.

So what kind of criminal record information is public?

Generally, your record includes the crime charged, the district court that convicted or dismissed the charge, the date that the case was settled, a description of the sentence imposed and other notes about the court’s procedure.

Can employers check my criminal record?

Yes. An employer can check to see if you’ve been convicted of a crime at the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA), or at the local county courthouse. Each county keeps only its own records of cases that are charged in that county. The BCA compiles a list of all the records in every Minnesota county and keeps a statewide computerized database.

Some employers use private companies to do background checks. Those companies use public information provided by the Minnesota Court Information System (MNCIS) to maintain their own databases. Sometimes the information in private databases isn’t always accurate so if you do get an expungement and you’re still denied employment because of a background check using a private data company with inaccurate information, you may have a civil claim against the company. Consumer law is not Catherine’s area of practice or expertise, but she wants you to know that you may have options if you find yourself in this situation.

You may be eligible for a statutory expungement if:

• Your case was resolved in your favor, or resulted in diversion;
• You have a juvenile delinquency record;
• Your case resulted in a petty misdemeanor or misdemeanor and you have been crime free for two years after your sentence was completed;
• You have a conviction for a gross misdemeanor and you have been crime free for four years after your sentence was completed;
• Your have a conviction for a qualifying low-level, non-violent felony and you have been crime free for five years after your sentence was completed.

For almost all other convictions or records of arrest, you must ask a judge to seal your records. Some convictions, such as those requiring registration as a sex offender, are prohibited from being expunged.

There are special procedures for asking for an expungement. If you are interested in petitioning for expungement, contact Catherine today. She will explain the statutory requirements and procedure for filing an Expungement Petition. She will evaluate your case, prepare the appropriate documents, and advocate for you in any required hearing. Catherine believes in second chances, and wants to help you help yourself.

Common Questions About Expungement

Click on the toggle for each question below to view the answer.

Does expungement mean that my record is invisible to everyone, forever?
If your records are expunged, a Court can seal the records in the Judicial branch as well as records kept by agencies in the executive branch, such as the BCA, police departments, and prosecutors’ offices. It even requires private business screening services to delete expunged records. This makes your records invisible, however, records can still be opened for special reasons if a Judge allows it by special order. But those are very rare circumstances. For all intents and purposes, if your records are expunged, they shouldn’t come back to haunt you.
Can all convictions be expunged?
No. Records of serious convictions like murder or criminal sexual conduct are never expunged. Some convictions are automatically eligible for expungement at a certain point under the new statue. Other crimes are able to be expunged, but only if you can convince a judge that the benefits of the expungement outweigh the disadvantages to the public being able to learn of your conviction.
So what are the chances of the court granting an expungement?
Under the new law, some convictions qualify for expungement at certain point automatically. In other cases, one must convince a judge to grant the expungement, you will have to prove that you suffer from some hardship based on the conviction remaining on your record. For example, you have been denied housing, employment, or a professional license because of your record. Next, you will have to show that sealing your criminal record will not negatively affect public safety, and that you have rehabilitated yourself. Often if your conviction is minor, a judge will be sympathetic. However, the more serious the offense, the less likely a judge will be convinced that the benefit to you outweighs the public interest in having your record available.
What if I was acquitted or the charges against me were dismissed? Do I still need an expungement?
Under the new law, you will have to go through the expungement process, but if the case was resolved in your favor, you will qualify for expungement.
If my petition for expungement is granted, then what happens?
Your state court record will still exist, but it will be invisible to the general public. That means if someone were to go to the county courthouse and look up court records either by talking to a clerk or using the court computer system, your record would not be able to be seen. Employers would not be able to see your record, or at least not the record of the conviction or charges you have expunged. Now under the new law, a judge has the authority to seal the records of executive branch agencies, meaning that the BCA, police departments, the Department of Human Services and other agencies have to seal their records too. That means more privacy and peace of mind for you.
What about sealing the records of other agencies?
Effective January 1, 2015, an expungement order can seal the records of other agencies. That means that the Department of Health & Human Services, Police Departments, Probation Agencies, Prosecutors Offices and other civil agencies must remove the details of your case from any databases or records they maintain. This also includes the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA).

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Catherine Turner
Call Catherine Turner for experienced, professional and aggressive criminal defense help. She can help guide you through the criminal justice system and be your advocate inside and outside the courtroom!

Minnesota Bar Association Criminal Law Specialist

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