If you have ever had a run-in with the law, you are more than familiar with the criminal penalties you may face for your charges. However, one of the most severe consequences of legal trouble isn’t even mentioned at sentencing: having a criminal record.
Arrest records, court proceedings, and sentencing are all maintained in public databases, meaning that any form of legal trouble can and will show up on a background check – even if you were not ultimately charged, or were acquitted at trial.
Fortunately, in many cases you can apply to have your criminal record sealed so that it is not publicly available. However, the application process is just that – an application. It can be rejected, and the process is quite complicated and time-consuming.
Because of this, your best chance of a successful petition is to work with a knowledgeable Minnesota criminal defense attorney who knows the system and can maximize your chance of a favorable outcome.
Below, we’re going to break down both why you want to get your record expunged as well as the benefits of having an experienced Minnesota criminal record sealing attorney by your side.
Effects of a Criminal Record in Minnesota
A criminal record can adversely affect many aspects of your life, potentially in ways that you may not even be anticipating.
Approximately 87% of Minnesota employers run criminal background checks, meaning that Minnesotans with past legal trouble are regularly denied employment or are terminated due to a criminal record.
Most landlords also run criminal background checks on potential tenants, meaning that a criminal record may affect your ability to find housing. A criminal record can also affect higher education, loan applications, and eligibility to apply for federal student financial aid.
Moreover, criminal records are maintained in public databases, meaning that anyone with an internet connection and the desire to pry can access embarrassing details of a past mistake that you’d rather put behind you. A criminal record can adversely affect your social life, and is associated with a stigma that is often unfair.
Additionally, arrest records and court proceedings are publicly available. This means that any criminal legal history whatsoever is a black mark on your record, even if your case was thrown out entirely or you were found innocent.
Fortunately, you may be eligible to have your criminal record expunged such that it is not publicly available. This means that your criminal record will not show up on background checks or in public databases, and that you may legally state that you do not have a criminal record on employment, housing, or loan applications.
How a Minnesota Record Sealing Attorney Can Help with Expungement
Technically, you can apply to have your record expunged completely on your own. There are even forms and guides available to help you do this.
So, why would you hire a lawyer to do it for you? Several reasons.
It’s a lot of work. Yes, as mentioned above, you can read up, learn the laws and process, and apply for expungement on your own. Doing this, though, takes a lot of time an effort. It’s certainly worth it, but do you really have the time to dedicate to it?
Just one thing you’re going to have to learn about: eligibility. Seems like no big deal, right? However, Minnesota adopted a new expungement law in 2015 referred to as the “second chance law.” It drastically increases the number of prior offenders who are eligible for record sealing, as well as improving the method by which they are sealed, but it doesn’t cover everyone.
Generally speaking, there are seven main categories of Minnesota criminal record sealing eligibility: cases “resolved in petitioner’s favor,” first time drug offenders, juvenile offenses, diversion programs and stays of adjudication, misdemeanors and petty misdemeanors, gross misdemeanors, and some low-level felonies. Each category has its own specific rules and requirements, and you need to make sure you understand which one applies to you.
Again, that’s just one example of what you’ll need to study up on if you want to handle your expungement application on your own.
One misstep can cost you. Further complicating all the rules and regulations is the fact that the system is designed to punish any little mistake. Fill out a paper incorrectly? Rejection. Miss a deadline? Rejection. Turn something in to the wrong office? Rejection.
There are a million little ways that you can make a mistake throughout the process, and any one of them will likely lead to you losing out on your bid to have your record sealed. A detail-oriented lawyer who has done this process countless times for other clients isn’t likely to have this problem.
They know how the system works. Remember, an expungement petition is just that – a petition. You are asking for the court to seal your records. Even if you meet all of the eligibility requirements and turn in every document in the right way, that isn’t a guarantee that the judge will grant your petition.
Your job isn’t just to dot all of “i’s” and cross all the “t’s,” but sell the powers that be on the idea that you deserve to have your record expunged. No one understands how to do this better than a knowledgeable criminal attorney who has successfully done it many times over.
Bottom line? Getting your criminal record expunged is not a right, but a privilege. It can just as easily be denied as it can be approved. Work with a lawyer and he or she will be able to make a skillful argument written in persuasive language to the courts system, maximizing your chance of a successful petition.
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).