Civil commitment cases in Minnesota are public record. Even if your commitment is continued for dismissal or stayed, these records will remain on your record indefinitely. The only way to prevent the public from accessing your civil commitment case is to have it expunged.
In 2014, the Minnesota legislature made it easier for people to secure expungements of their criminal records by passing the Minnesota Second Chance Law (see our post from 2015). Unfortunately, this law did make it easier for people seeking expungement of their civil commitment cases.
In order to secure an expungement of a civil commitment case, a person must show two things: a) he would bear an undue hardship if the records in the case are not sealed, and b) the benefit he would receive by sealing the records in this case is greater than the need for the public to know about this civil commitment case. The problem is neither the statute nor the appellate courts define what “undue hardship” means.
Our client asked us to help him expunge his civil commitment case, as he did not know how to argue “undue hardship.” In our expungement petition, we told the court that a closed civil commitment case holds little-to-no value to the public. We also argued that the vague “undue hardship” standard makes the statute to unconstitutional.
The court never considered our constitutional argument. Instead, it granted our client’s expungement motion on the merits of his petition.