On January 1, 2015, Minnesota’s new expungement law takes effect. This is an exciting change. People with a criminal record have a better chance of erasing it and securing better jobs and housing.

An expungement is a court order sealing criminal records and prohibiting the disclosure of their existence or their opening except under court order or statutory authority (e.g., pursuant to a criminal investigation). Criminal records include information relating to arrests, indictments, trials, verdicts, and or convictions. All of these records are publicly accessible through the Minnesota Court Information System (MNCIS).

Having a criminal record disqualifies many people from certain jobs and housing. Potential employers and landlords can easily search a person’s criminal history using MNCIS or other fee-based programs, like Lexis and Intellius. Getting an expungement seals a person’s criminal record, which means the records won’t appear on MNCIS or most other databases.

Before this new law, only criminal records pursuant to a small list of offenses were expungeable. As of January 1, 2015, most petty offenses, misdemeanor and gross misdemeanor crimes, and even some felony offenses qualify for expungements. With this new expungement law, people can finally put bygone mistakes behind them.

Getting an expungement requires filing a petition in district court. Even though the law entitles some people to an expungement, it’s not uncommon for the government to object. That’s why it’s important to consult an attorney about the new law if you’re interested in petitioning the court for an expungement. Your best opportunity to secure an expungement is to have a lawyer evaluate the strengths of your case and use them pursuant to the new law.