Be prepared when new Minnesota expungement law goes into effect

Starting in 2015, a new Minnesota expungement law will allow for greater opportunities to overcome the ongoing effects of a criminal past.

For those convicted of a crime, the unfortunate reality is that the consequences of a criminal conviction can be extremely far-reaching. Even completing a judicially imposed sentence and supposedly repaying a debt to society, the record of a conviction can have implications for getting a job, securing a professional license, getting into institutions of higher education, even finding a place to live.

Expungement can be a useful tool to help prevent a past mistake from coming back to haunt you long after the fact. Yet, up until now, there have been serious gaps in Minnesota's expungement law. On Jan. 1, 2015, a new law goes into effect that will plug some of the holes in the expungement process, potentially helping many Minnesotans with old convictions get on with their lives unencumbered by the specter of a criminal history.

Records of many types of offenses can be expunged

Even under the new law, it is important to keep in mind that records of serious offenses like murder or aggravated assault are never expungeable. In addition, even if the charge from your past can be expunged, expungement is not automatic; to have a conviction expunged, you will have to convince a judge that you have made changes in your life, it is unlikely that you will commit another crime and your need for a sealed record outweighs any relevant public safety concerns.

That being said, under the new law, records of the following types of cases will be eligible for expungement:

• Juvenile delinquency cases

• Cases resolved in your favor by acquittal or dismissal

• Cases that resulted in diversion or a stay of adjudication, provided you have not been involved in another crime for one year after completing the sentence

• Cases that resulted in a conviction for a misdemeanor or petty misdemeanor, provided you have not been involved in another crime for two years after completing the sentence

• Cases that resulted in a conviction for a gross misdemeanor, provided you have not been involved in another crime for four years after completing the sentence

• Cases that resulted in a conviction for a low-level, nonviolent felony, provided you have not been involved in another crime for five years after completing the sentence

New law allows for sealing of executive branch records

The new Minnesota expungement law contains a number of important provisions that modify existing law, but one in particular is probably the most significant for those seeking an expungement. In Minnesota, expunged records are not physically destroyed, but are sealed, meaning that potential employers and others cannot access them. However, under the old law, judges were prevented from sealing records that were in the hands of executive branch agencies, including the BCA.

This was a major problem, because BCA records are the primary information source in many employment and housing background checks. Starting in 2015, both court records and records held by the executive branch can be sealed through an expungement, giving those who have proven they deserve an expungement a meaningful chance at overcoming the stigma of having a criminal record.

Get help from a Minnesota expungement attorney

Are you concerned that records of a questionable past could prevent you from fully realizing your future potential? If so, it is worth exploring the possible benefits of an expungement. Get in touch with a Minnesota expungement attorney today - the sooner you begin preparing your case, the quicker you will be able to pursue an expungement when the favorable new law takes effect in January.

Keywords: Minnesota, expungement, conviction