Minnesota’s Liberal Expungment Policies Create Second Chances For Former Criminals

Former convicts struggle with reintegration into society because their criminal record limits their ability to find a good paying job or safe housing. Through the expungement process, these convicts may use a criminal defense lawyer in Minneapolis to secure a second chance with a sealed court record.

What Is An Expungement?

An expungement is an act of sealing a criminal court record, making the conviction and court proceedings invisible to the general public. Assistance from a criminal defense lawyer in Minnesota can speed the process of application, making the former convict’s record appear clean to most people. Some government agencies and all law enforcement officials may petition to see expunged records, though they must have a compelling reason to do so.

What Are The Benefits?

Minnesota’s newest expungement rules greatly expand the power of the courts to seal records, especially for first-time offenders and drug offenders. The law effectively eliminates public access to records both through the court system, but more importantly, through the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA). The BCA has long been the database of choice for employers and landlords performing background checks, and eliminating the records in the system ensures greater access to jobs and housing for former convicts.

Many people mistakenly assume that a minor infraction or misdemeanor charge on their record from their late teens or early twenties will not affect their lives decades later, but the continued presence of those crimes on the record can create severe problems. Expungements allow former criminals to show they have moved beyond youthful indiscretions or sought rehabilitation for their negative behavior, and deserve a second chance.

Who Qualifies?

Expungements are available to almost any first-time or single criminal offender. Those who have several criminal convictions may also apply for expungement, though each case requires its own paperwork and hearings. The rules for qualification vary according to the type of crime to be expunged.

Acquittal Or Dismissal

Anyone accused of a crime has a criminal record, even if the accused was never convicted of the crime. The presence of a record is often enough to deter employers or landlords who are unwilling to discover what the record meant. An expungement may be granted to any accused who won the proceedings via acquittal or dismissal of the charges.

Diversion Or Stay

In an effort to lower prison populations for non-violent offenders, Minnesota created a robust diversion program. Under the program, the accused may complete a court-approved diversion course and must avoid criminal charges for a full year. If the accused completes the program, he or she not only avoids jail time but can also apply for expungement.

Petty Misdemeanor Or Misdemeanor

Petty misdemeanors and misdemeanors may be expunged if the criminal avoids a second conviction for at least two years after the end of the sentence.

Gross Misdemeanor

Gross misdemeanor convictions require a wait time of at least four years after the end of the sentence.


Minnesota’s expungement laws extend to felony convictions, with several major restrictions.

  • The crime must be a low-level, non-violent felony
  • The former convict must avoid a second conviction for at least five years
  • The crime must be on the list of 50 acceptable offenses. Most of the crimes on the list involve drug crimes, theft under $5000, fraud, or forgery.

How Does The Process Work?

The process involves a considerable amount of time and paperwork. In general, applicants must:

  • Collect all of the necessary paperwork, including a complete criminal history (including cases not related to the case to be expunged) and the expungement packet. Some of the questions in the packet require short essays for answers, and will take time to complete. Many of the documents must be notarized before filing.
  • Show evidence of rehabilitation in the application. The petitioner must list the names of all victims and provide a short statement on how the applicant’s behavior has been changed.
  • Receive a hearing date. According to the law, applicants have to wait at least 63 days between filing their paperwork and the hearing date in order to receive an expungement.
  • Fulfill a “Service of Process”. It is crucial that the applicant not mail the documentation on their own behalf. The documents must be mailed by a criminal defense lawyer in Minnesota or other trusted agent who is willing to sign the Affidavit of Service once the documents are mailed.
  • Once the paperwork is received and the hearing date arrives, the applicant will receive final judgment on whether or not the expungement has been granted.

A criminal defense lawyer in Minnesota is an invaluable tool to ensure applicants do not overlook a critical step in the process.

A criminal record does not have to mean the end of employment prospects or a lifetime of poor housing. By using the expungement process, former convicts can receive relief and have their records sealed.

Max Keller has won countless jury trial cases involving misdemeanors and felonies, sex crimes, and DWI’s. He is a member of the Minnesota Society for Criminal Justice, which only allows the top 50 criminal defense attorneys in the state as members. Max is a frequent speaker at CLE’s and is often asked for advice by other defense attorneys across Minnesota.

Years of Experience: Approx. 20 years
Minnesota Registration Status: Active
Bar & Court Admissions: State of Minnesota Minnesota State Court Minnesota Federal Court 8th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals State of Maryland

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