For people who are concerned about previous convictions showing up on their criminal record, seeking an Expungement may be a viable option. Criminal records are public records, so a conviction that appears on a person’s criminal record may have negative effects when seeking employment or housing, among other things.
An Expungement is a court order that allows for a person’s criminal record to be sealed. In most cases an Expungement is not guaranteed. An Expungement is considered an extraordinary remedy. If the charges were dismissed or if the criminal proceeding did not result in a conviction and the matter was resolved in favor of the person seeking the Expungement, then by statute an Expungement can be granted under Minn. Stat. § 609A.02.
All other Expungement requests are subject to judicial discretion. A filing fee to the district court, which varies slightly from county to county, will be required. In cases where a person was convicted of a crime, an Expungement request will only be granted upon presentation of clear and convincing evidence showing that the public’s interest and safety is proportional to the benefits it would yield to the person seeking the Expungement.
When considering an Expungement request there are various factors a court will take into account, including, but not limited to:
- reason the Expungement is sought;
- type of offense for which Expungement is being sought;
- whether there were victims involved in the initial offense, and if so, whether or not there is or has been an Order for Protection, Restraining Order or other No Contact Order;
- what steps the person seeking the Expungement has taken toward rehabilitation;
- if the person seeking the Expungement has other criminal convictions;
- whether the person has previously requested an Expungement.
In the event that there are victims from the offense for which the Expungement is sought, the victim will be notified and have the right to be present and submit an oral or written statement at the Expungement hearing.
The Expungement process takes some time. A hearing cannot be held any sooner than sixty (60) days after the filing of the petition requesting the Expungement. This is because there are various law enforcement and city and county offices that need to have time to respond in the event that they oppose the Expungement request. In addition, it is common that an order will not be issued at the hearing, but mailed at a later date. This allows time for the judge to consider any arguments that were presented before ruling on the request.
If an Expungement is granted it typically takes several months for the various agencies that have records of the person’s arrest and conviction to be notified and administratively seal the records. There is also no guarantee that the conviction information will not be available to the public through other sources such as the internet. The courts can only guarantee that the criminal file will be sealed, and order any city, county or state agencies to seal their records. In the event that a city, county or state agency fails to comply with the order to seal any records, the court has no authority to force that they do so.