What is an Expungement?
The consequences of having a conviction on your record can be devastating and everlasting. Almost all criminal convictions are accessible through a simple Google search. Potential and current employers have the ability to access your criminal record within seconds. Simply said, your criminal record may be enough to prevent you from securing a steady livelihood. Getting your record expunged is one of the only ways to prevent the public from accessing this information. An expungement is an order from the court demanding certain records be sealed. It is important to note that there are two different types of expungements:
1. Expungements authorized by statute; and
2. The court’s inherent authority to expunge records.
The Minnesota legislature enacted laws that control most expungements. These laws are available for anybody to read here.
Expungements Authorized by Statute
According to Minnesota Statute 609A.02, the court is authorized to seal records associated to certain arrests, charges, and convictions. Specifically, a person may petition for an expungement for certain first-time drug offenses, juveniles prosecuted as adults, and in certain cases not resulting in a conviction.
Court’s Inherent Authority to Expunge Records
Courts have the inherent authority to seal its own records. Under this method, a person may petition the court to seal conviction records contained within the judicial branch of government. For example, the public court and conviction records under the Minnesota Court Information System (MNCIS) could be sealed with an order by the court. However, executive branch records, like police and arrest reports, cannot be sealed, as the courts do not have authority to tell agencies within the executive branch of government to seal those records.
How to File an Expungement Petition
Petitioning the court for an expungement is an arduous task governed by Minnesota Statute §609A.03. Filing a petition typically requires a filing fee. The expungement petition must contain specific information, including:
1. A full name and all other legal names;
2. All addresses since the date of offense;
3. Reasons why expungement is sought; and
4. Steps taken toward rehabilitation.
The petition must be filed in the district court where expungement is sought, and notice must be sent to all agencies associated with the offense. Failure to follow each rule set forth in §609A.03 may result in dismissal of the expungement petition. After each agency is served with the expungement petition, the court will hold a hearing no sooner than sixty (60) days. The court may issue its decision immediately after the hearing, or it may take the matter under advisement and issue a decision at a later time.
Successful Expungement Petitions
In order to maximize your chance for success, it is imperative you find a knowledgeable Minnesota criminal attorney who knows and understands the expungement laws. The goal of filing an expungement petition is to show the court who you are—not what you did. That requires far more than filing a petition that conforms to the statute. An expungement petition should contain information that personalizes the request and demonstrates why sealing your records is in the best interest of everybody involved.