People make mistakes every day. Some of those mistakes result in felony convictions. Unfortunately, after working tirelessly to overcome past problems, addictions, and convictions, thousands of ex-offenders in Minnesota face barricades to employment and improved housing. Now, Minnesota’s new expungement law is offering new hope.
What is expungement?
Expungement is the process of sealing arrest and conviction records. Minnesota allows basically two types of expungements, sealing motion and statutory. A sealing motion relies on the Court’s Inherent Authority. Essentially, a person asks the court to use its inherent authority to seal a record. While sometimes helpful, a sealing motion seals only the court’s record. For instance, for those with traffic violations, the criminal court case record would be sealed, but any records held at the MN Dept. of Public Safety would not. Depending on your particular situation, a sealing motion based on inherent authority is useful.
Minnesota’s new law, allows for statutory expungement. Enacted in 2015, this new law gives the courts power to seal the court’s records but also all other records held by government agencies. This includes the police, prosecutor’s office, the Minnesota Department of Human Services, and the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension among others. This makes the law extremely useful for those who were convicted of a crime and those who never convicted, but merely investigated or charged.
Who can seek an expungement?
Under the new expungement law, a person is eligible for statutory expungements in the following situations:
- All proceedings were resolved in the petitioner’s favor (a conviction was not obtained such as by acquittal or dismissal)
- The petitioner has completed all terms of a diversion or stay of adjudication. In addition, the petitioner has not been charged with a new crime for at least twelve months following their completion.
- The conviction was for a petty misdemeanor or misdemeanor conviction. Furthermore, the petitioner has not been convicted of a new crime in at least two years since completing their sentence.
- Petitioner was convicted of a gross misdemeanor and has not been convicted of a new crime in at least four years since completing their sentence.
- Petitioner was convicted of one of fifty low-level, non-violent felonies and has not been convicted of a new crime for a least five years. Eligible felonies range from things like theft of $5,000 and aggravated forgery to livestock theft and altering livestock certificates. The entire list is available at Minnesota Stat. 609A.02 (b)1-50.
Can non-US citizens use the expungement law to avoid immigration authorities?
The simple answer is no. Immigration authorities have the right to ask for all offenses charged or committed, including expunged offenses. However, having your record expunged signals authorities that the matter was minor and that you are actively working towards overcoming any problems associated with the matter. If you do seek to have the matter expunged, always request a certified copy of the court’s entire file that includes the register of action. Once sealed, you will be unable to obtain the information without a motion to open the case and the immigration authorities may refer to it later.
Minnesota’s new expungement law is helping thousands of ex-offenders to expunge their records and rebuild their lives. However, there is no guarantee that you will receive an expungement. The proper forms must be completed and the Judge will need to find that the benefits of you receiving an expungement outweigh the possible risk of the public being unable to access your criminal record. Ex-offenders may seek an expungement on their own, but the best chance lies in seeking the help of an experienced attorney. As an award winning criminal defense attorney, Christian Peterson has the knowledge, passion, and commitment to assist clients in obtaining the expungement necessary to allow them to move forward with their lives in the best way possible. Contact Christian Peterson today to get started working on your case.