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Minnesota Expungement (Sealing) of Criminal Records

Have you ever heard the term “expungement" and wondered what does that mean? If so, then maybe this quick overview will help.

Generally, the term expungement refers to the sealing of an individual’s criminal records. For instance, let’s assume you were previously charged in Minnesota with violating a criminal law but the State subsequently dismissed those charges. Now assume that you have been applying for new employment and your potential employers are questioning you in regards to your criminal record. In this case, you may want to seek a court order sealing your Minnesota criminal record and prohibiting disclosure of their existence or their opening except under court order or statutory authority.

What does this mean if you obtain a court order sealing your criminal record?

Simply stated, it means that your criminal record will not be available to the general public. However, please keep in mind that it does not mean that the records are destroyed or that a law enforcement agency, prosecution or correctional authority may not be able to later access that record.

How do I qualify for an expungement in Minnesota?

In general, an individual in Minnesota has two primary methods for seeking a court order sealing criminal records.

First, an individual may qualify under statutory authority, whereby Minnesota Statute section 609A states that an expungement of criminal records may be permissible if:

(1) the charges were dismissed, your were found not guilty, or the case did not otherwise result in a conviction,

(2) you were charged with a controlled substance offense and the proceedings have been dismissed and discharged,

(3) you were a juvenile prosecuted as an adult, or

(4) the Board of Pardons has granted you a pardon extraordinary.

Alternatively, if you do not qualify under Minn. Stat. section 609A, then you may ask the court to exercise its inherent authority and issue a court order sealing your criminal records. It is important to note that this option is seldom granted and usually only applies to lower level crimes (i.e., not murder, sex crimes, or DWIs). Moreover, the individual seeking this type of expungement in Minnesota must also persuade the court that the individual has undergone rehabilitation and that his or her personal benefit outweighs the disadvantage to the public and the burden on the court.

Other important information to consider before seeking an expungement in Minnesota?

  1. An order expunging (sealing) a conviction may only provide for expungement of the record held by state courts and may not expunge records held by state or local law enforcement and prosecution agencies
  2. The expungement process can take several months and will likely require the preparation of documents, filing a petition with the court and copying all relevant agencies, and attendance at a court hearing.
  3. You should also anticipate a filing fee in the county that you are seeking the court order. Generally, civil filing fees are several hundred dollars (e.g., Hennepin County civil filing fee as of today is $322). Please note that you may however qualify for a fee waiver commonly referred to as an In Forma Pauperis request.
  4. Remember that even if you are successful, old information held by outside entities will not instantly vanish as a Minnesota court order may not persuade an out of state private organization to seal its information (e.g., the internet holds and disseminates massive amounts of old information).

If you have ever considered seeking an expungement (sealing) of your criminal record in Minnesota or have questions or comments, please do not hesitate to contact this office!

Additional resources provided by the author

I hope this brief overview has helped explain a few questions. If you are considering an expungement of your criminal record in Minnesota, then you may want to start at www.mncourts.gov under Self-Help. However, if you have additional questions or concerns, please make sure you seek out legal counsel to assist you in your endeavor to seal Minnesota criminal records.

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