Expungement is the process of going to court to ask a judge to seal records from a criminal court case so that they cannot be seen by the public. Criminal court information that could be seen by the public may include the type of crime charged, your name, the name of the court that convicted or dismissed the charges, a description of the sentence served, and other details. Even if your criminal court case was dismissed, there is a public criminal record that says you were charged with a crime and that your charge was later dismissed. An expunged record is not destroyed, however. For example, the police and governmental agencies may still see sealed records for certain purposes. Further, all Minnesota District Court records remain on your record unless sealed by law. Individuals seek expungement for a variety of reasons including obtaining employment, housing, and peace of mind.
Certain criminal proceedings may be expunged. A petition may be filed to seal all records relating to an arrest, indictment, trial, or verdict. Individuals who were convicted of crimes may seek expungements if they have remained law-abiding for a certain period of time. The requirements for the expungement process vary based on the criminal charge. An individual who has successfully completed the terms of a stay of adjudication or diversion program and has not been charged with a new crime for at least one year since completion of the program may file a petition.
An individual may file a petition if they were convicted for a petty misdemeanor or misdemeanor and have not been convicted of a new crime for at least two years since the discharge of their sentence. Common examples of petty misdemeanors include traffic violations and possession of a small amount of marijuana. A misdemeanor may include DWI, reckless driving, disorderly conduct, and trespassing.
An individual who was convicted for a gross misdemeanor and has not been convicted of a new crime for at least four years since discharge of their sentence may file a petition. Gross misdemeanors are intermediate level offenses under Minnesota law. They are punishable by up to one year in jail and a $3,000 fine. Second and third offense DWIs and some drug offenses are gross misdemeanors.
An individual who was convicted for specific felony violations and has not been convicted of a new crime for at least five years since discharge of the sentence for the crime may file a petition. A felony is the most severe offense under Minnesota law. An offense punishable by a sentence longer than one year is defined as a felony. The felony violations that may be expunged include, but are not limited to: financial transaction card fraud, fraudulent driver’s license and identification card, forgery, embezzlement of public funds of $2,500 or less, theft of $5,000 or less, and residential mortgage fraud.
Expungements are prohibited for convictions of an offense for which registration is required. Examples of these offense include indecent exposure, kidnapping, false imprisonment, possessing pornographic work involving a minor, and prostitution.
The process to expunge a criminal record takes at least 4-6 months. The individual must file a petition and usually pay a filing fee. The contents of the petition will include why expungement is sought, the details of the offense or arrest for which expungement is sought, and in the case of a conviction, what steps the individual has taken to remedy the conviction and rehabilitate themselves since the time of the offense. After the petition is filed, the next step is a hearing in the presence of a judge. A victim of the offense for which expungement is sought has a right to submit an oral or written statement to the court at the time of the hearing describing the harm suffered as a result of the crime and the affected person’s recommendation on whether expungement should be granted or denied. The judge has up to 90 days from the date of the hearing to make a decision. If the judge grants the expungement, another 60 days will pass before the court and other affected agencies can seal the records.
If you have further questions about expungement or wish to start the process, contact a member of BK Law Group today.