Minnesota expungement: Can it help clear your criminal record?

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If you live in Minnesota and have a criminal record, it could hold you back from a lot. When you're looking for a new apartment or home to rent, for example, a criminal record could preclude you from moving into the home you want.

Looking for a job or pushing for a promotion with a criminal record isn't easy either. Most places perform criminal background checks before hiring, and a number of employers now do the same when promoting someone internally.

How to get around a criminal record

There are many other ways that a criminal record could keep you from getting the most out of your life. Thankfully, for some people, there is the possibility of having that criminal record expunged -- having certain offenses removed from their records or sealed, so that they don't show up in public searches.

What is expungement and how does it work?

At its most basic, expungement is the process of requesting that the courts remove or seal a court record. You will gather information about your case and file a request with the courts. A judge will review the case records, hear testimony and determine if you qualify for expungement.

If a judge orders an expungement, the courts will seal the records of your case and trial. That can help you with some types of criminal background checks.

What are the limits of expungements?

One of the most important things to realize is that just because something has been expunged doesn't mean it's completely gone. The courts will still maintain records about your charges, even after expunging your record. That information, however, should not get released to the public anymore.

The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) maintains records from law enforcement. It is also commonly used for criminal background checks. They may not seal your record unless the courts order a full expungement of all records, including the courts and the BCA. Less people can obtain this kind of expungement, but it is the most effective.

Who qualifies for a full expungement?

There are only certain situations in which the courts have authority to seal all government records of a criminal case. These include:

  • Some first time drug possession offenses
  • Some juvenile offenses tried in adult criminal court
  • Cases where you received a not guilty verdict or had your case dismissed
  • Other minor convictions, typically misdemeanors

In general, there are a lot of hoops to jump through. In order to complete the process correctly, contact a skilled criminal defense lawyer to learn about your options.

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