Forgery defendant's judicial criminal records could be expunged

Under Minnesota law, a district court may "expunge" or seal an individual's criminal records, if the criminal charges were resolved in favor of the criminal defendant or for equitable reasons-that is, where expungement seems like the fair thing to do.

The Minnesota case of State v. M.D.T. provides an example.

A plea to forgery charges

The defendant was arrested in 2006, after submitting a prescription to a Worthington pharmacy for a cold medicine which contained codeine, a controlled substance. After her arrest, the defendant admitted to the police to altering the prescription dosage because she did not have enough money for another prescription and could not afford a second visit to the doctor if the prescription did not work. The defendant had no other criminal offenses on her record.

The defendant was charged with two counts of felony aggravated forgery and one count of procurement of a controlled substance by fraud. The defendant entered an "Alford plea"-a special way to plead guilty in which the defendant does not admit to the criminal act, but admits that the evidence will likely lead to a conviction. The defendant met the conditions of her sentence and was eventually discharged early from probation and even the remainder of an owed fine was forgiven.

Approximately five years after her arrest, the defendant sought expungement of her criminal records from the judicial branch of the government.

Factors in favor of expungement

The Minnesota Court of Appeals explained that one reason an expungement might be granted is if it will provide a benefit to the defendant that is equal to the disadvantage to the public in not having access to those records in the future as well as the burden on the court in handling an expungement.

A number of factors are considered in this benefit/burden analysis, including: (1) whether the defendant has difficulties with finding employment or housing because of a criminal record; (2) the seriousness of the offense; (3) the risk the defendant poses to the public; (4) any additional offenses or efforts at rehabilitation; and (5) any other objective evidence of hardship.

In this case, the court applied each of these factors in reaching its decision. The defendant had been fired from one job due to her criminal record and had been forced to turn down numerous jobs that required background checks. Her crime was non-violent and of minimal seriousness, and she posed no significant threat to the public. She had also committed no other crimes and had satisfied all suggested rehabilitation.

Thus, the defendant's criminal records generated by the judicial system would be expunged.

The burden of a criminal record

A criminal record can be a significant burden in many areas of your life. In some cases, expungement may be a viable solution to lifting this burden. Seek an attorney skilled in expungement cases who can help you through the process and seal the records to protect your privacy.