Minnesota Criminal Records Expungement, and Related Topics

Public and “non-public” records of an arrest, criminal charge or conviction can:
• destroy a person’s ability to obtain gainful employment,
• impair a person’s opportunity to reach their full income-earning potential,
• prevent, impair or destroy a person’s professional or occupational licenses,
• create barriers to person qualifying for quality rental housing, and
• diminish and destroy a person’s future in many other important ways.

Thomas C Gallagher, Minneapolis criminal defense attorney of Gallagher Criminal Defense Services, has been handling Minnesota criminal records expungement cases, as part of his criminal defense practice, since 1988.  In that time, he has received  hundreds and hundreds of inquires from people desperately wanting to expunge their Minnesota criminal records – after it was all but too late, after they had already pled guilty and been sentenced.

The best time to prepare for an expungement? Before considering making a guilty plea!

clean slate board chalk handWhen it comes to protecting your public record, the maxim “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” applies.  As you will see below, it will be extremely difficult to make a successful expungement motion if you pled guilty or were convicted by guilty verdict.

Gallagher has been quite successful in helping his clients achieve an “expungeable outcome” in the first place to the criminal charge – an outcome that should allow for a successful, future expungement motion.

Minnesota law provides for various remedies and strategies for keeping your record clean, or trying to clean it up afterwards.  Among those are “expungement” and “pardon extraordinary.”  A person may have rights under Minnesota expungement law under certain conditions; while, the same might not be said of “pardon extraordinary,” since that remedy is only available from a state pardons board, not through the courts.

Minnesota state criminal records expungement law
Expungement law under Minnesota state law (as opposed to United States federal law) could be simplified as fitting into four categories:

1. Minnesota Statutes §299C.11. Where the person was never charged or no probable cause ever found by a court, this statute provides for the return of identification (booking) data, and cleaning up records.

2. Minnesota Statutes Chapter 609A. Where (a) a juvenile certified as an adult; or (b) certain first time drug offenders; or (c) certain criminal proceedings not resulting in a conviction (must not be a guilty plea). See Minnesota Statutes §609A.02

3. An “inherent authority of the court” expungement, currently the least attractive option, but the only expungement remedy available to most people who do not otherwise qualify for a better option.

4.  Juvenile Expungement.   Minnesota Statutes Section 260B.198, Subd. 6, provides for court authority to expunge the juvenile “adjudication of delinquency” at any time that it deems advisable, except when legal custody is transferred by commitment to the commissioner of corrections.  The court does have authority to expunge executive branch records under this statute, according to a 2012 Minnesota Court of Appeals case. Minnesota Statutes Section 609A.02, Subd. 2, addresses “juveniles prosecuted as adults,” and allows a Petition for Expungement by a person who has been committed to the custody of the Commissioner of Corrections upon conviction of a crime following adult certification, after final discharge by the Commissioner of Corrections; or if the person has been placed on probation by the court under Minnesota Statutes Section 609.135, after discharge from probation following satisfactory fulfillment of it.  Neither statute appears to explicitly address the situation of a person convicted and sent to prison after being placed under Extended Juvenile Jurisdiction (EJJ).

The first type of expungement, under Minnesota Statutes §299C.11 provides for the best available remedy.  Unfortunately, it is available to a tiny fraction of the people who call Gallagher for help, since it requires that the person was never charged or no probable cause was ever found.  For the lucky few who meet this criteria, they may be able to use the law (and a lawyer like Gallagher) to get the return of identification (booking) data, and cleaning up public records.

Minnesota Statutes Chapter 609A. Expungement of criminal records under this statute is available in cases where:

(a) juveniles certified as an adult;
(b) certain drug defendants (successfully completed disposition under Minnesota Statutes §152.18);
(c) others for whom the charge was decided in defendants favor, which appellate cases so far have defined simply as “no guilty plea;”
(d)  certain cases specified where there was a convciction, after a specified period of time.

See Minnesota Statutes §609A.02.  Remedy is now only “sealing” the “public” records (not return of records as with §299C.11).  What is sealed can be unsealed by future court order, in the event of future criminal investigation, but is made non-public and generally unavailable.