It’s true, the juvenile justice system does tend to go easier on juvenile offenders than adult courts would, focusing on rehabilitation before young people begin facing the real responsibilities (and punitive measures) of an adult.
What’s also true, a youth’s responsibilities aren’t always finished upon completion of community service or offense-related program. Living with a criminal record, juvenile or otherwise, could cost you a job, a degree, and certain housing.
If you know your Minnesota juvenile record isn’t clean, and you haven’t checked into it yet, we recommend inquiring about whether you qualify for expungement. This process seals your record from public view and keeps your youthful mistakes from showing on background checks.
Most cases qualify for this clean start. So we want to talk about eligibility considerations and steps to take when you’re able to take advantage of this option.
Aren’t Juvenile Records Automatically Expunged in Minnesota?
Many people mistakenly believe that all juvenile criminal records are expunged when the offender turns 18. While there are circumstances in which Minnesota criminal records are automatically expunged, the process can be more complicated.
If any of these scenarios apply, your juvenile records are not automatically expunged when you become a legal adult:
- Committing a crime considered a felony-level offense when committed by an adult.
- The offender was 16 years of age or older at the time the offense was committed.
- The offender was tried as an adult.
In these cases, your juvenile record will not be automatically sealed when you turn 18.
Rather, you must file a petition to expunge your juvenile record.
Minnesota Juvenile Offenses That Are Ineligible for Expungement
Let’s take a closer look at those juvenile offenses which are felony-level when committed as an adult, and ineligible for expungement. If your record includes any of the following, they will remain on your permanent juvenile record:
- Most sex crimes
- Domestic abuse
- Stalking or violation of a protective order
Here’s why…Offenders guilty of these crimes are considered to be a substantial risk to public safety, so lawmakers have determined that these offenses are permanently ineligible for record sealing.
The Juvenile Record Expungement Process in Minnesota
As mentioned, your juvenile records can be expunged by filing a petition with the court. To petition for the expungement of your juvenile record, there are three general steps in the process.
Three Steps for Filing a Petition
STEP ONE: Obtain a copy of your full criminal case history from the court where your case was prosecuted. Cases in multiple counties will require pulling case histories from multiple courts.
STEP TWO: Complete the petition including the case history and an explanation for why you’re applying for the expunction and how it will benefit you plus any other supporting documents.
STEP THREE: File the petition paperwork for expungement with the court(s) where you were tried. You will need to file a separate petition for each offense you wish to have expunged.
Once filed, the court will determine whether to grant or deny your petition.
Evaluating Your Petition
In Minnesota, the courts maintain wide discretion over the expungement of juvenile records. Your judge(s) will consider the following factors when evaluating your petition:
- The type and severity of the offense(s) committed
- Whether you are currently a threat to public safety
- What steps you’ve taken towards rehabilitation
- The purpose of the expungement
- Your employment history and ties to the community
- Recommendation letters from law enforcement, prosecutors, and victims
The goal of your petition is to demonstrate that you’re not at risk for reoffending and that your expungement would allow you to become a more productive member of society.
We understand this can sometimes be difficult to express on paper. To eliminate possible missteps in the filing of your petition and to maximize your chances of it being accepted by the court(s), we recommend seeking out a skilled Minnesota juvenile defense attorney for help.
About the Author:
Christopher Keyser is a Minneapolis-based criminal and DWI defense attorney known for fighting aggressively for his clients and utilizing innovative tactics to get the most positive results. He has been featured in numerous media outlets due to the breadth and depth of his knowledge, and recognized as a Minnesota Super Lawyers Rising Star (2014–2015), a Top 100 Trial Lawyer (2013–2015), and a Top 40 Under 40 Attorney (2013–2015).