Effective January 1, 2015, Minnesota’s expungement law provides new opportunities for people to seal criminal records. Sometimes called Minnesota’s new “Second Chance Law,” the ability to successfully seal a criminal record and get a fresh start is now possible.
With 87% of employers performing some form of a background check, Minnesotans are continuously denied jobs or are fired because of a criminal record. These records range from dismissed charges to diversion programs, to low-level criminal convictions and serious felonies. Prior to 2015, Minnesota law was strict and limited the number of people eligible for expungement. With the 2015 law changes, expungements are now available to a larger group of people and judges have more power to seal records beyond those held at the courthouse.
Minnesota’s expungements are divided into two main categories: those qualifying for expungement pursuant to statute, and those qualifying under the court’s “inherent authority.” Under the pre-2015 expungement law, most people did not qualify for an expungement by statute and could only seek an expungment through the court’s inherent authority. This not only limited the number of people who could obtain relief from courts, but also limited the amount and type of relief a judge could grant. The majority of people seeking an inherent authority expungement were limited to only sealing the records held by the court – all other records held for that person remained open and accessible to the public. These unsealed records include those held by police departments, sheriff’s offices, prosecutors, the Department of Health, the Department of Human Services, and the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. These “limited” expungements were not providing a meaningful remedy to people seeking to clear their records from public view.
With the new expungment law changes, it can be confusing whether a particular case qualifies for expungement and if it does, how long a person must wait before submitting a request for expungement. This visual guide provides an overview of Minnesota’s Expungement Law, what is considered a “record,” and the different eligibility categories for expungement. Consult a Minnesota expungement attorney to learn more about specific cases and how to seal a record.