Expungement of Criminal Records in Minnesota


Finally, A Second Chance: Minnesota’s New Expungement Law

The Minnesota Legislature and Governor Dayton enacted sweeping reforms to Minnesota’s expungement laws, which took effect January 1, 2015. A person’s criminal record aspect of their defense is perhaps second in importance only to their liberty.

Minnesota has two distinct types of expungements: either you qualify for an expungement pursuant to statute, or you qualify pursuant to the court’s inherent authority. Under the old law, many defendants did not qualify for expungement under statute, which provided for all records related to a case to be expunged. Most defendants qualified under the court’s inherent authority. When an expungement is pursuant to the court’s inherent authority and not statute, the court is limited to expunging only court records, namely, the court file and the Minnesota Court Information System (MNCIS) electronic criminal history database.

These defendants, even after persuading a judge to grant an expungement, were only able to accomplish a partial, and many would argue meaningless, remedy. Those defendants qualifying under inherent authority were able to have MNCIS and court file records sealed, but many other records, most notably Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) records and Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) records, still prevented them from advancement opportunities and employment. The expungement statute that allowed for full expungement of all records needed to be expanded to apply to more people.

The new expungement law is a complete overhaul of our expungement laws – everything from who is eligible, to what factors a judge must consider, to the procedure for filing a petition. Below is a summary of some of the specifics.

    • Juvenile Delinquency. The new law clarifies that Minn. Stat. § 260B.198, Subd. 6, allows judges to seal all records related to a juvenile delinquency matter.
    • Chapter 609A Statutory Expungement. The new law now allows statutory authority for expungement as follows: diversion cases involving a plea and stays of adjudication are eligible one year after discharge from a sentence, petty misdemeanor and misdemeanor cases are eligible two years after discharge, gross misdemeanor cases are eligible four years after discharge, and a list of 50 felonies are eligible five years after discharge. The most common felony offenses included are: Fifth Degree Controlled Substance, Assault of a Police Horse, Voting Violations, Theft of $5,000 or Less, Possession or Sale or Stolen or Counterfeit Checks, Receiving Stolen Goods, Dishonored Check Over $500, Embezzlement of Public Funds $2,500 or Less, Criminal Damage to Property, Forgery and Aggravated Forgery, Check Forgery, Furnishing a Firearm to a Minor, Interference With Privacy (Subsequent Offense or Minor Victim), and Financial Transaction Card Fraud.
    • Domestic Assault and Sexual Assault. Petty misdemeanor, misdemeanor, and gross misdemeanor domestic assault, sexual assault, HRO violation, NCO violation, and OFP violation offenses are excluded from statutory authority expungement in the new law, however, this exclusion language will sunset on July 15, 2015, and these offenses will then be eligible for expungement as well.

If you previously looked at having your case expunged and you thought it was not possible, it’s time to take another look to see whether this process can now help you clean up your criminal record. If you are interested in expungement, please give us a call at (651) 645-1440. We offer free consultations and can help determine the best options for you.