I know, this is easier said than done these days. Another day, another law! The legislature seems to think that every perceived problem, no matter how small or private, requires another law. And some laws are "solutions in search of a problem."
Still -- make a sincere effort to avoid violating the criminal laws. If may help you avoid criminal prosecution. Unfortunately, perhaps 10% or more of people charged with crimes are innocent.
If You Are Under Investigation - Seek Legal Help Immediately.
If you are under investigation by police or being questioned by police about a criminal matter, you can and should seek pre-charge counsel froma a good criminal defense lawyer. This can help reduce the likelihood of being charged in the first place; and reduce the chance of a conviction or bad sentence if you are charged.
Get Criminal Charges Dismissed without a Court Finding of Probable Cause.
If your lawyer can help you do this, the best kind of statutory expungement in Minnesota may then be available to you, which could result in a court order not only removing the records from public view, but also returning booking information and items to you.
This is rare, since usually prosecuting attorneys and police are capable of making claims which if proven true, would amount to a criminal law violation. Still, a good criminal lawyer will review each case for a defective Complaint.
Avoid Pleading Guilty, And Avoid Conviction After a Trial.
If your lawyer can help you do both, you could qualify for expungement under Minnesota Statutes Chapter 609A, which could result in a court order sealing your government records of the charge, arrest and related information, from public view.
Two other categories that could qualify under Minnesota Statutes Chapter 609A, are (1) certain first time drug defendants who pled guilty under Minnesota Statutes Section 152.18; and (2) where the underlying charge was made when a juvenile certified as an adult.
Avoiding a guilty plea is temendously important, if possible - especially for people with no prior record. A good criminal defense lawyer should work hard to try to find a way to resolve cases without a guilty plea, for this very reason.
If You Have Already Pled Guilty, or Were Convicted.
If you pled guilty or were convicted, an "inherent authority" expungement might hold some hope. An "inherent authority" expungement is based upon the Court's inherent authority over its own affairs, including its records. It's not based upon a statute. For some years, Minnesota courts have often held that the "separation of powers doctrine" means the courts lack authority to order executive branch (including law enforcement) agencies to destroy or seal records, unless authorized by statute, or unless the guilty plea or conviction was obtained as the result of a Constitutional violation. In 2008, a Minnesota Supreme Court case held to the contrary in some respects, though another later case appears to go the other way. Cases that fall in this area may require extensive litigation, due to the unsettled nature of the law. This could be costly and time consuming, with no certainty of ultimate success. That's why it's best to avoid pleading "guilty" in the first place!
Need for an Expungement Reform Law.
The expungement statute should be amended to make it more fair and humane, when warranted. It was made too restictive in the late 1990s. Defense lawyers like me have been advocating this for years, and recently it is getting more attention due to significant disenfranchisement and unfair loss of employment and civil rights. Consider contacting your political representatives to ask for these changes. The Minnesota Association for Criminal Defense Lawyers (MACDL) has been working on this, but we need a public outcry to get these changes made.
For More Info on Minnesota Criminal Records and Expungment Law
... click on the links below.
Additional resources provided by the author
For further information on expungement in Minnesota (including links to Minnesota expungement statutes), see this page on my web site: