Juvenile expungement orders an issue in current Minnesota case

In many different situations, such as applying for a new job or trying to rent an apartment, individuals may be asked to submit to a criminal background check. This review will allow employers to determine if the applicant has ever had any trouble with the law. If red flags arise, this can effectively remove a person from consideration.

Some of the incidents listed in these background checks happened when the individuals were juveniles. Depending upon the severity of the crime being alleged, the matter may be resolved using juvenile delinquency rules, or the individual may be tried as an adult. This means that different rules will apply if the person wants to remove the information from his or her criminal record.

In Minnesota, there has been some recent confusion about the power that courts have when ordering expungements, or sealing, of the individual's juvenile criminal history. In a 2012 case heard by the Minnesota Court of Appeals, an individual studying to become a paramedic applied to have juvenile records expunged after it appeared that these records may pose problems for employment in the future.

The person had previously been granted an expungement of records that were held by the judicial branch, but did not request any sealing of the records of those agencies that would fall under the executive branch. An executive agency, the Minnesota Department of Human Services, learned of the individual's prior actions and prevented the person from completing coursework. The individual then asked the court to seal the records of these executive agencies.

Whenever an individual is charged with a crime, there will be several records of what happened. Each agency that has any interaction with the case will have some record available, and in many situations, this information is accessible to the public looking to do a criminal background check. This means that law enforcement agencies such as the police department that made the arrest, as well as the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, will have records of the case on file for those in juvenile matters.

The court in the current case ruled that it had the power to order executive agencies to also expunge the individual's record, because the legislature did not specifically restrict the court's power to only judicial agencies. The court expressed concern that a decision denying this power would make it impossible for individuals to have their records completely expunged of past juvenile offenses.

The case has been appealed, and was recently heard by the Minnesota Supreme Court. Their ruling will hopefully clear up some of the uncertainties that are currently unaddressed in the statutes that deal with juvenile expungements, and could lead to legislators drafting new laws which could clarify the expungement process.

If you have questions about having your record expunged, speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney about your situation. Because of the different laws that apply to juveniles and adults, it will be necessary to review your matter to determine how to file your request.