This article was updated on August 6, 2015 to reflect changes in Minnesota expungement law*
People routinely call us wanting to know whether they can get their criminal record “expunged” or sealed from public view. Minnesota expungement law is a divisive issue: some want to restrict offenders’ ability to seal criminal records, while those with convictions who cannot obtain employment or housing because of their criminal background want a fresh start. Expungement petitions can be tricky depending on the specific case, but here are “need to know” points (Disclaimer: You should always consult directly with an expungement attorney for specific guidance on your individual case):
Step 1: Know the difference between “statutory” and “inherent authority” expungements. “Statutory” expungements refer to certain charges or convictions where the court has the legal authority to seal its own (court) record as well as other government agency records such as the police department, sheriff’s office, prosecutor’s office, etc). “Inherent Authority” cases are convictions where the court can seal its own record but does not have the legal authoirty to seal other government agency records. Another way to look at this is statutory expungements are “full” where inherent authority expungements are “limited.”
If your case was dismissed without pleading guilty, you will qualify for a statutory expungement regardless of the offense severity level. If your were convicted of a petty misdemeanor, misdemeanor, or gross misdemeanor, you will still qualify for a statutory expungement but must wait a certain period of time after being discharged from probation before you can petition for an expungement. Only some felonies are currently eligible for statutory expungement. Most felonies are only eligible for inherent authority expungement. For more information about which cases qualify for statutory expungement and the required wait times, review our Expungement InfoGraphic.
Step 2: Are you on probation? If you are currently on probation, you cannot petition the court to seal your record. Instead, you may want to petition the court for early discharge from probation. As a general rule, you should have at least two-thirds of your probation period complete before making this request. It is also helpful to have your probation officer’s support (although it is not required). Once you are discharged from probation, you can petition the court for an expungement but it’s a good idea to wait a while before doing so. Courts like to see that petitioners do not have further criminal activity (specifically convictions) and are making good progress through work, school, treatment, etc. before petitioning for an expungement. How long should you wait? There is no specific rule for this and opinions differ between courts and attorneys, but we recommend a minimum of six months after being discharged from probation. If you can wait longer, it typically increases your chances of a successful petition.
Step 3: Submit the correct paperwork. Expungement petitions can be tricky. Most courthouses have legal assistance to help people fill out the paperwork correctly. If you decide to hire an attorney, he or she will submit the proper petition for you.
Step 4: Be patient. The expungement process can take upwards of six months. After your petition is complete, you must send copies to all “interested” or affected parties. If there is an agency with a record you want sealed, you must send them a copy of your petition and notice of your hearing at least 60 days before you go to court. After the court hearing, the judge may take some time to make a decision in your case (this is called taking the case “under advisement”). Whether a judge rules immediately or takes the case under advisement, it could be several weeks or months before you get a final answer. If the court grants your expungement petition, the government has 60 days to appeal. During that 60-day appeal period, the expungement order is suspended and only becomes final if nobody appeals. Adding those dates together, the expungement process can become rather lengthy.
Minnesota Expungement Lawyer
Like most areas of the law, expungements are not a “cookie cutter” or “one size fits all” process. Each case is different and requires its own unique approach. When in doubt, it’s best to consult with an expungement attorney to weigh your options. We are happy to speak with you about your expungement case. Feel free to contact us for a free case evaluation at 612-338-5007. You can also send us an e-mail by filling out the consultation box on the left side of this page.
*Minnesota’s expungement law was revised on Januuary 1, 2015.