Having a criminal record can make it hard to get a job, an apartment and some professional licenses, among other things. In certain circumstances, Minnesota law allows you to have those records expunged. Then you can legally claim it never happened and get on with your life.
What Are Expungement and Record Sealing?
These two procedures prevent employers, landlords and others from accessing records related to your crime. Expungement technically refers to physically destroying the files, while sealing merely blocks them from public access. However, many people use them interchangeably. Minnesota laws refer to expungement, but the state does not actually destroy the records.
Are Your Records Eligible for Sealing?
Minnesota has multiple levels of expungement, depending on the circumstances of your case.
If you were never charged or your charges were dismissed early in the case, you can have your arrest record sealed and booking data, such as fingerprints and photographs, returned to you. You are eligible if you do not have any felony or gross misdemeanor convictions in the 10 years before your arrest.
If the case was resolved in your favor, the files, including police reports and court records, may be eligible for sealing. “In your favor” generally means you did not plead guilty, you were found not guilty or charges were dismissed later in the case.
Some records related to a conviction or guilty plea may be eligible for sealing, but this is much harder to accomplish. Also, in most cases, this option will only seal court records, not law enforcement records, which will remain accessible to the public.
Certain types of crimes, including murder and sex crimes, are never eligible for expungement.
How Do You File a Request for Expungement?
The correct procedure depends on whether there was ever a court case opened.
To have arrest records only sealed, you must contact the relevant law enforcement agencies, such as the police department, county department of correction and others. The courts will not be involved because there was no court case.
For all other cases, you will need to file a petition with the court. The state has a detailed form to use. It asks for information such as:
- Your current name and any other names you have used
- All of your addresses since the time of your crime
- Your reason for seeking expungement
- Your entire criminal history, including charges where you were not convicted
- Why you qualify
You will need to have your petition notarized and then the original filed with the court in the county where the crime occurred. You will also need to have the prosecutor and any other agencies holding relevant records served with copies. These offices may object to your request.
In most cases, you will attend a hearing at which you will try to convince the judge that you deserve an expungement and that granting one will not adversely affect the public. If anyone has raised any objections, you may address those as well.
The records cannot be sealed for 60 days after the court grants your request.
Talk with an Expungement Lawyer in Minnesota
The information presented here is very general and may not apply to your specific case. The state of Minnesota does provide more information and forms you need on its judicial branch website, but the petition is long and the requirements can be confusing. It is a good idea to at least talk with a Minnesota expungement lawyer who can help you figure out if you are eligible, make sure you get all the right paperwork and even file for you.