On May 14, Gov. Mark Dayton signed into law a bill that simplifies and clarifies the expungement process for reformed offenders. Specifically, the new law says that if the following conditions are met a person is eligible for expungement, a process by which this or her criminal record is permanently sealed:
- the person successfully completes a diversion program;
- he or she is not charged with a new crime for at least two years after the initial conviction; and
- he or she can show that his or her criminal record is making is difficult to find a job or obtain housing.
“People can’t turn their lives around and become law-abiding citizens if they have no hope of finding a decent job or a place to live,” Dayton said. “This law provides a chance for them to put their pasts behind them and live better lives.”
Although expungements have been in existence for some time, the process was difficult and there was significant uncertainty regarding the requirements for obtaining an expungement. This new law makes it easier to give reformed criminal offenders the opportunity to get on the right track by clarifying the requirements for expungement and streamlining the expungement process. The new law, which goes into effect January 1, 2015, also clarifies that juvenile records can be expunged, with clear standards for doing so.
“We know these laws have been unclear for a number of years now,” House bill sponsor Rep. Carly Melin, DFL-Hibbing, told the House Ways and Means Committee March 26. “With some recent state Supreme Court decisions it became even more unclear, and the Supreme Court basically kicked it back to the Legislature and said we need to do something to address the expungement issue and when it comes to collateral consequences associated with criminal records.”
According to a Pioneer Press article, Senate bill sponsor Sen. Bobby Joe Champion said that nearly one in five Minnesotans has a criminal record and the increasing use of online record checks – which are often inaccurate or misinterpreted – is making it difficult for offenders to get a job or obtain housing.
Lawmakers are quick to emphasize that the bill is not a “get out of your past free card,” and that offenders must wait five years after completing their probation before they can request expungement.
Contact a Minnesota Criminal Defense Lawyer
The Minneapolis criminal defense lawyers at Keller Law Offices focus on defending clients facing criminal charges and helping those who have been convicted of a crime get back on the right track. If you would like more information about Minnesota’s new expungement law or are facing criminal charges, contact our office at (952) 913-1421 to schedule a free consultation with one of our criminal defense lawyers. We represent clients in connection with state and federal charges pending in Minneapolis, St. Paul, and throughout Minnesota.