A serious criminal conviction can be a challenging thing to live with. Even long after repaying your debt to society, your past can come back to haunt you, impairing your ability to get a good job, obtain a professional license or find suitable housing.
Yet, under certain circumstances, Minnesota law allows individuals to expunge their old criminal convictions. In fact, a new appellate ruling issued by the Court of Appeals on Apr. 12, 2012, makes expungement even more readily available for Minnesotans.
Court Deemed to Have Authority to Expunge Both Judicial and Executive Records
Five years after pleading guilty to a felony charge of aggravated forgery, the respondent in the case State v. M.D.T. was eager to move on with her life. She had originally filed an expungement petition pro se — in other words, without the help of a lawyer — but it was denied. However, her second expungement petition, submitted with the help of a Minnesota criminal expungement attorney, was approved by a district court.
Still, the judgment was not final. Along with the county attorney involved in the case, Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson appealed the ruling, claiming that the district court overstepped its authority by ordering the expungement of the respondent’s criminal records, putting the case in the hands of the Court of Appeals.
In Minnesota, there is no guarantee of expungement, but if your crime is not among the most serious offenses, and you can convince a judge that you have been disadvantaged by your criminal record, sealing your criminal record will not adversely affect public safety, and you have rehabilitated yourself, you have a good chance at expungement.
On appeal, the court found that the respondent had met these requirements, but there was still a question of whether the original trial court had the authority to expunge not just the criminal records maintained by the judicial branch, but also those held by executive branch authorities like the BCA (Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension).
The appellate court reasoned that since the executive branch maintains criminal records as the result of judicial branch action (i.e., entering a conviction) that Courts should be able to expunge executive branch records created by the Courts themselves. In addition, executive branch records need to be sealed for a judicial expungement order to be meaningful, and there are practical protections still built in that allow executive records to be reopened for good cause. Thus, the court was within its authority to expunge all the respondent’s criminal records, both judicial and executive.
Career Derailed By Criminal Record? Expungement May Be the Answer
A felony conviction can be devastating for employment prospects. In the recent appellate case, before her expungement, the respondent was denied a job by at least six prospective employers due to her felony conviction — she was even fired from a position she’d already obtained when her past came up in a background check. Thankfully, the recent ruling should help get her career back on track.
The ruling may be helpful for you too. If you have a conviction in your past, contact a Minnesota criminal expungement attorney today to learn how to clear your record of old legal indiscretions.