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Minnesota Law Allows You to Seal Criminal Records

In 2015, Minnesota revised its expungement law. The revised law makes it easier to seal criminal records. The revised law also allows, for the first time, meaningful expungement of criminal records relating to certain felony offenses. Before delving into the analysis of which records can be expunged and how easy or difficult it is to expunge the records, it is important to understand what expungement does.

What is expungement?

Expungement is a court order stating that a governmental entity cannot disclose certain criminal records or even the existence of the records unless such disclosure is done by court order or through some statutory authority. This prohibition is not limited to disclosure of records by the court system--it also prevents law enforcement agencies and other state agencies from making such a disclosure.

So, which convictions can be sealed? The answers depends on the type of criminal activity at issue and the result of the case.

Case resolved in your favor

If the criminal activity at issue was resolved in your favor, you are eligible for expungement. A case is resolved in your favor if you do not make an admission of wrongdoing. For example, by taking your case to trial and winning or by having your charges dismissed before trial.

If you fall into this category, Minnesota's expungement law provides that a court shall grant expungement unless a governmental agency who objects can prove by clear and convincing evidence that the interests of the public and public safety outweigh the disadvantages to the person seeking expungement of not sealing the record. This is a tough standard for a governmental agency to meet. Minnesota's expungement law provides a number of factors for the court to consider in making its determination.

Successful completion of stay of adjudication or diversion program

You are eligible for expungement if you successfully completed the terms of a stay of adjudication or diversion program AND have not been charged with a new crime for at least one year since the completion of the stay of adjudication or diversion program.

If you fall into this category, Minnesota's expungement law again provides that a court shall grant expungement unless a governmental agency who objects can prove by clear and convincing evidence that the interests of the public and public safety outweigh the disadvantages to the person seeking expungement of not sealing the record. Minnesota's expungement law provides a number of factors for the court to consider in making its determination.

Misdemeanors and petty misdemeanors

You are eligible for expungement if you were convicted of or received a stayed sentence for a misdemeanor or petty misdemeanor AND have not been convicted of new crime for at least two years since the discharge of the sentence for the crime. As with the previous categories, Minnesota's expungement law provides a number of factors for the court to consider in making its expungement determination.

Gross misdemeanors

You are eligible for expungement if you were convicted of or received a stayed sentence for a gross misdemeanor AND have not been convicted of a new crime for at least four years since the discharge of the sentence for the crime. Minnesota's expungement law again provides a number of factors for the court to consider in making its expungement determination.

Felonies

Under the 2015 revisions, you are now eligible for expungement even if you were convicted of or received a stayed sentence for certain felony violations AND you have not been convicted a new crime for at least five years since the discharge of the sentence for the crime. The new law specifically states a long list offenses that qualify for expungement. The revised law again provides a number of factors for the court to consider in making its expungement determination.

Agreement with Prosecutor

Minnesota's 2015 revisions also provide individuals another avenue for expungement-an agreement with the prosecutor. If the prosecutor agrees to seal your criminal records, the court is required grant expungement.

Hire a Lawyer

Minnesota's 2015 revisions to its expungement law significantly broadened an individual's opportunity to have his or her criminal records sealed. While the change opens the door to more criminal activity being expunged, it is still worthwhile to hire an attorney to assist you through the process. For many expungements, you still need to convince a judge or prosecutor that expungement is appropriate given your circumstances. Criminal defense attorneys are trained to use the statutory factors to zealously advocate for you through this process. Defense attorneys also regularly interact with prosecutors and appear in court before local judges. They know what needs to be said and done given your particular case.

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