In Minnesota, you can sometimes seal your criminal record so employers, landlords, or the general public cannot see it. This is called Expungement. Even police and law enforcement cannot see it. This essentially seals the case so it is not visible except in very narrow circumstances and with a court order. In order for an expungement to work, it has to be done correctly and involve all the necessary parties and agencies, otherwise it is a waste of time and money.
Minnesota Statute 609A is the law that covers expungements. Most misdemeanors such as theft, disorderly conduct, and sometimes DWI/DUI and Assaults can be expunged. For a Misdemeanor or Petty misdemeanor, you need to have no criminal convictions for two years after you were discharged from probation. This would exclude most parking tickets, speeding, and driving without a license.
Most Gross Misdemeanors are also eligible for expungement. With a Gross Misdemeanor, you must wait four years after you were discharged from probation and you must not have been convicted of a new crime.
Felony convictions are the most frequent charge that people need to expunge. Minnesota law only allows expungement in certain felony cases. Low value felony theft, drug charges, and stolen property charges are the most frequently expunged. You need to be conviction free for five years after you were discharged from probation before you are eligible.
Once category of cases you cannot expunge are sex crimes that require Predatory Offender Registration.
I also get calls from people asking to expunge convictions from other states. You can only expunge eligible Minnesota convictions.
Tips for Preparing for your Expungement:
The single biggest thing you can do to help your case get expunged is to document all the instances your criminal conviction has hurt you. One of the factors that the judge must take into consideration is what benefit an expungement would have for your record. I have seen many cases where people say “I was turned down for an apartment.” Your word or testimony is not as good as a letter you can show the judge. I tell everyone to make sure they get documentation, letters of rejection, and any other paperwork they can find to show their criminal conviction is harming them. The cases that seem to be the most successful are the ones that can show the conviction is holding them back.
I also recommend you keep all the paperwork related to your criminal case. I will often show the judge proof that you completed treatment, or other court ordered programming. When you are discharged from probation, sometimes the agent will send you a letter. I recommend keeping all of this and having an attorney review it. It is sometimes hard to get these documents years later, so save everything.
Finally, document all the things you have accomplished and done in your life to make yourself a better person. This can be going to school, starting a family, or just getting a good job. The more documents that you can get that show you are a good person and changed for the better, the easier a decision it will be for a judge.
I often see people in court trying to expunge their record on their own. While sometimes successful, they often don’t notify all the correct agencies or do the paperwork necessary. Expungement requires a lot of paperwork and documentation, so make sure you do it right the first time. At least talk to an experienced attorney before proceeding.