New Minnesota expungement law to take effect January 1, 2015

Minnesota has an expansive new expungement law taking effect in 2015.

In the new year, Minnesota judges will get expanded powers to seal the criminal records of certain people who deserve new lives free from the negative consequences of such records.

Current judicial power in Minnesota to expunge criminal records extends to judicial records, but not generally to state-agency records. The Second Chance Expungement Bill lets judges also seal agency records, such as those at the Minnesota Department of Human Services and the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.

These expanded expungement powers will prevent those agency records from showing up in background checks that could be damaging to reformed defendants deserving of new starts in life. For example, certain criminal records may make someone ineligible for renting a home, qualifying for a mortgage, getting a particular job, entering some education programs or obtaining certain professional licenses.

The bill also expands the scope of juvenile records that can be sealed and sets standards for considering juvenile petitions.

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton in his official blog about the bill cites bill author Minnesota Sen. Bobby Joe Champion, D-59, for the statistic that almost one in five Minnesotans have an arrest or criminal record. The governor supported the bill’s efforts to give deserving people a better opportunity to reform and move beyond their past problems to live productive lives.

The new law provides more specific guidance about when expungement is proper. For example, under current law, a person can file a petition for expungement in most cases if there was no conviction, that is if “resolved in favor of the petitioner” (not including a verdict of not guilty because of mental illness).

The new law expands the pool of people eligible to file expungement petitions with the court. In addition to those whose charges were resolved in their favor, in 2015 and forward, most people will also be allowed to file petitions if they were convicted of or got stayed sentences for petty misdemeanors, misdemeanors, gross misdemeanors or certain relatively nonviolent felonies and have not been either charged with or convicted of new crimes within a certain number of years, depending on the offense levels.

A new method of expungement is also created that does not require a petition. Rather, a prosecutor agreement to expunge will require the court to seal the records unless it “determines that the interests of the public and public safety … outweigh the disadvantages” to the person of not sealing.

Importantly, the law lays out new standards for petition cases.

For cases resolved in favor of the defendant; or if he or she successfully completed a diversion program or stay of adjudication and has not been charged with any crime for at least one year since completion, the petition should normally be granted unless the agency holding the records proves by clear and convincing evidence that the interests of the public and public safety outweigh the disadvantages to the defendant of not granting the petition.

For other cases in which the defendant qualifies to file a petition, expungement is to be granted only if there is clear and convincing evidence that the benefit to the petitioner is proportionate to the disadvantages to the public and public safety. The law gives the judge a list of 12 factors to consider in deciding whether to grant the petition, including the nature of the crime, the risk petitioner poses, steps toward rehabilitation and more.

Any Minnesotan with a criminal or arrest record who would like to explore expungement should contact a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney like one from the Bloomington office of Villaume & Schiek, P.A.

Keywords: Minnesota, expungement, new, 2015, seal, criminal record, Second Chance Expungement Bill, judge, agency record, judicial record, arrest record, petition, crime, standard, evidence, factor